Anheuser-Busch InBev NV plans to sell SABMiller Plc’s beer brands in central and eastern Europe as it steps up efforts to win regulatory approval for its $109 billion acquisition of the London-based brewer.
AB InBev submitted an updated proposal to the European Commission that included a commitment to sell operations in Hungary, Romania, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland, the company said in a statement Friday. It already has agreed to sell the Peroni, Grolsch and Meantime brands to Japan’s Asahi Group Holdings Ltd.
The maker of Budweiser is doing all it can to secure regulatory approval around the globe for the takeover, the industry’s biggest ever. Earlier this month, it agreed to create a $69 million fund to support the South African beer sector and protect jobs in the country where SAB was founded. It’s also selling stakes in joint ventures SAB held in the U.S. and China.
"SABMiller’s eastern Europe operations were certainly not key to the deal in AB InBev’s perspective, I think they would willingly concede this," said Eddy Hargreaves, an analyst at Canaccord Genuity.
AB InBev was little changed at €110.65 euros as of 9:03 am in Brussels.
SABMiller had a 1 per cent decline in lager volumes in Europe in its most recent fiscal year, hurt by increased competition and discounting in Poland. Performance in the Czech Republic and Slovakia improved throughout the year, fueled by sales of premium-priced Pilsner Urquell, the company said.
"I guess they would go knocking on Asahi’s door again given they sold Peroni and Grolsch to them, to see if they’re interested in these assets," Andrew Holland, analyst at Societe Generale, said by phone. “Heineken is the least obvious suitor as it would run into antitrust problems in almost every country.”
AB InBev expects European regulators to publish the findings of the first phase of their inquiry into the transaction by 24 May. It reiterated that it hopes to seal the deal during the second half of the year.
"These assets include a number of top brands in their markets and are expected to attract considerable interest from potential buyers," AB InBev said.
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