AB InBev-SABMiller Merger
By now, just about everyone has heard the news that AB InBev, the world’s largest beer producer, owner of Anheuser-Busch and many other brands, plans to acquire SABMiller, the second largest beer producer. The reception among those in the craft beer industry to this news has been chilly to say the least. In the United States, there is significant concern that any such merger will have anticompetitive effects, particularly focusing on the potential squeezing out of craft brewers on both supply of raw ingredients and the distribution of final products. The merger will undergo significant review by the United States Department of Justice to determine whether it violates U.S. Antitrust law.
While the potential merger is no doubt concerning to those in the craft beer world (and craft beverages at large), there are a few things to keep in mind. First, in order for this merger to have any chance of being approved by the DOJ, AB InBev will have to divest itself of effectively all of SABMiller’s U.S. assets. Furthermore, it appears that a number of members of the U.S. Senate are looking out for the interests of those in the craft beer world. On November 19, U.S. Senators Angus King, Jeff Merkley, Christopher Coons, Richard Blumenthal, and Susan Collins jointly wrote a letter to the DOJ expressing significant concerns about the potential anticompetitive effects the merger may have on the craft beer industry in the U.S. While the situation is obviously still fluid, and is truly concerning for many in the industry, it is good to know that the craft beer industry has some support in the higher levels of government.