Two of Europe’s best-known beers are going up for sale as brewers Anheuser-Busch Inbev NV (BUD) and SABMiller Plc (SBMRY) look to ensure antitrust clearance for their massive merger deal.
According to The Sunday Times, ABI, which is driving the merger deal, wants to sell the Peroni and Grolsch brands to ensure that the merged company’s market share in Europe stays within acceptable levels.
Although a key source of sales for the combined company, the E.U. wasn’t widely expected to be a big stumbling block to the $105 billion deal, which will produce what ABI calls ‘the world’s first truly global brewing company,” with a major presence from China and Latin America to the U.S. and Africa. The two companies have around a one-third market share in Europe, compared to around 70% in the U.S..
Megabrew Inc., as the financial markets have dubbed the new company, appeared to clear the biggest antitrust hurdle to its plans earlier this month when it agreed to sell SABMiller’s stake in the MillerCoors joint venture to Canada-based Molson Coors for $12 billion.
European antitrust regulators typically start fretting when a company’s market share tops 30%.
Both Peroni and Grolsch are largely niche, premium products outside of their original home markets in Italy and the Netherlands. Even without them, ABI/SABMiller can still boast a portfolio of p0pular lagers including Stella Artois, Carling Black Label and Beck’s, all of whom enjoy bigger sales. Even if not required by regulators, the disposals would raise some welcome cash for the merged company which will start life with a heavy debt burden. ABI is under review from Moody’s Investor Service for a three-notch downgrade to its credit rating, due to the amount it will have to borrow to complete the deal.
No-one at Anheuser-Busch InBev was available to comment on the report early Monday.