A-B InBev Wins U.S. Nod for SABMiller With Craft-Beer Limits

Molson Coors To Get Full Stake in MIllerCoors as Expected

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A-B InBev and SABMiller logo 3X2
A-B InBev and SABMiller logo 3X2
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Anheuser-Busch InBev won U.S. antitrust approval for its takeover of SABMiller, after the maker of Budweiser agreed to give up ownership of the Miller brand and open the door to greater competition from craft beers.

A-B InBev will sell SABMiller's stake in MillerCoors LLC and refrain from practices that restrict distribution of smaller, competing brands, according to a court filing Wednesday in Washington.

The agreement to allow the brewing juggernauts to combine runs counter to the government's moves against other big deals in the past year -- the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission have killed proposed tie-ups in the cable, office supplies and oil drilling industries, among others. In this case, the companies proposed asset sales from the start that resolved antitrust officials' concerns that the deal would harm competition.

Shares of Molson Coors Brewing Co., which will buy SABMiller's stake in their joint venture, climbed 2% in New York to $100.06 at 2:23 p.m. A-B InBev closed down less than 1% at 112.95 euros in Brussels. SABMIller was little-changed at 44.25 pounds in London.

A-B InBev, already the world's largest brewer, struck the 77-billion-pound ($101 billion) deal to gain SABMiller's access to emerging markets in Latin America and Africa. Following divestitures, the deal will keep Budweiser, Beck's and Stella Artois under AB InBev's roof, while ceding control of brands such as Miller in the U.S. and Peroni and Pilsner Urquell in Europe.

With the U.S. approval imminent, the brewers still need clearance from China before they can close. Last month, people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg News that Chinese officials were close to blessing the deal after the companies agreed to divest the maker of Snow beer, the world's top-selling brand.

They faced pressure from some SABMiller shareholders to change the structure of the deal. Some fund managers want SABMiller to reconsider the 44-pound-a-share offer following the plunge in the pound since the U.K. voted to leave the European Union. SABMiller's board, which is convening before the company's annual shareholder meeting on Thursday, has unanimously recommended the offer.

From the start, A-B InBev moved to address competition problems in U.S. by offering to sell SABMiller's MillerCoors stake to Molson Coors. Still, the deal triggered concerns from U.S. lawmakers, beer distributors and craft brewers worried about A-B InBev's control over the market.

Craft brewers complained that AB InBev's incentive system for beer distributors curbed the sale of competing beers by encouraging distributors to carry AB InBev brands.

-Bloomberg News