By Foo Yun Chee
BRUSSELS, May 24 - The world’s largest brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev gained EU antitrust approval on Tuesday for its $100 billion-plus acquisition of SABMiller on condition it sell almost the whole of SABMiller’s beer business in Europe.
Reuters was the first to report that AB InBev’s concessions to sell substantial assets would secure the EU green light for one of the largest corporate takeovers ever.
AB InBev has already agreed to sell SABMiller’s Peroni, Grolsch and Meantime beer brands to Japan’s Asahi Group Holdings Ltd and to divest eastern European assets, three people familiar with the matter said on Friday.
The takeover will give it a third of the global beer market, selling twice as much beer as its nearest rival Heineken .
The European Commission said Europeans bought around 125 billion euros ($139 billion) worth of beer every year so even a relatively small increase would cause considerable harm to consumers.
“It was therefore very important that AB InBev’s takeover of SABMiller did not reduce competition on European beer markets,” EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.
The deal still needs to be approved by authorities in the United States and China. Australia and South Africa have already given their blessing.
The Belgium-based maker of Budweiser, Corona and Stella Artois wants to strengthen its presence in Latin America and Africa to offset weaker markets such as the United States where craft brews and cocktails are gaining popularity at the expense of beers. ($1 = 0.8976 euros) (Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; editing by Philip Blenkinsop)