After Asahi Group Holdingsagreed to sell some brands, the Japanese beverage giant got green light from Australia’s competition watchdog for a complete takeover of Carlton & United Breweries (CUB),one of the most iconic beer groups in Australia. Asahi confirmed it would sell the beer brands Stella Artois and Beck’s and the cider brands Strongbow, Bonamy’s and Little Green to a buyer to be approved by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
In Juli 2019, Asahi announced to buy the Melbourne-based brewing group from AB InBev at a purchasing price of AUD 16.0 billion (USD 11.3 bn) in enterprise value but said that the transaction was still dependent on regulatory approval (inside.beer, 19.7.2019). Five months later the ACCC issued a press release in which it set out its preliminary view that the proposed mega-deal will reduce competition in the market for cider and may also reduce competition in the beer market (inside.beer, 12.12.2019).
“The ACCC was concerned that without the divestments, the proposed acquisition would substantially lessen competition in the cider market and remove a vigorous and effective competitor in the beer market,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims said this week. “Without the sale of five beer and cider brands including Strongbow and Stella Artois, the combined Asahi-CUB company would have accounted for two-thirds of cider sales in Australia, and owned the two largest cider brands, Somersby and Strongbow. We determined that Asahi selling the beer and cider brands would be sufficient to address our competition concerns and provide an opportunity for another business to play an important role in a relatively concentrated industry.”
Despite ACCC’s approval the deal is not yet cut and dried because it still needs the approval of the Foreign Investment Review Board. However, this is not considered as an obstacle but as a mere formality.
AB InBev expects the deal to be closed in the second quarter of 2020.
CUB employs nearly 1600 people across its five breweries. It beer brands include Victoria Bitter, Carlton Draught, Foster’s, Fat Yak, Crown Lager and Balter, as well as Corona, Stella Artois, Beck’s and Budweiser under license.