Anheuser-Busch InBev NV (NYSE:BUD) has agreed to sell some of its most popular Mexican beer brands in the U.S. to allay regulators' concerns over its multibillion dollar deal to buy Mexico City’s Grupo Modelo SAB de CV (PINK:GPMCY).
The announcement, which came late Wednesday, comes after the U.S. Justice Department sued to block Belgium-based Anheuser-Busch InBev from buying Modelo, saying it would let the largest brewery in the U.S., which already controls nearly half of all U.S. beer sales through Budweiser, Stella Artois, Schok Top and other brands, to grab even more of the market.
Anheuser-Busch InBev said it would revise its $20.1 billion deal to spin off popular brands like Corona Extra, Modelo and Modelo Negra, as well as a brewery in northern Mexico, to Constellation Brands, Inc., (NYSE:STZ) of Victor, N.Y., for $2.9 billion, according to Reuters.
On Jan. 31, the U.S. Justice Department sought to block InBev’s acquisition of Modelo over concerns it would further consolidate the U.S. beer industry, which it said is already 65-percent controlled by two companies: Anheuser-Busch and Chicago-based MillerCoors LLC; the latter is a joint venture between Denver-based Molson Coors Brewing Company (NYSE:TAP) and London’s SABMiller PLC (LON:SAB). Anheuser-Busch InBev holds about 200 beer brands in its global portfolio.
Constellation objected to the Justice Department’s move. It would like a $1.85 billion deal with Modelo to acquire half of Crown Imports, LLC, which would give the company full U.S. distribution rights to Modelo’s beer products while Anheuser-Busch would be the sole supplier.
Japan's Asahi Sues
Meanwhile, in other news from the world of beer and litigation: Japan’s Asahi Group Holdings Ltd (TYO:2502) said Thursday it is suing Pacific Equity Partners and Unitas Capital over the 2011, 2.1 billion Australian dollar ($2.2 billion) acquisition of New Zealand beverage company Independent Liquor. The company claims that the two private equity firms inflated earnings during Asahi’s due diligence process prior to the acquisition.
“It is very disappointing that PEP and Unitas have engaged in this misconduct,” Atsushi Katsuki, managing director of Asahi Holdings Australia, told the Australian. “We conducted due diligence thoroughly and in good faith and relied on the figures provided to us. We are seeking maximum recovery of our loss and we have commenced legal proceedings for this purpose."
Asahi sells Asahi Super Dry beer and controls the Kingfisher beer brand, Vodka Cruiser and other beer and spirits brands in the Australian market.
The legal action is being instigated by Asahi Holdings (Australia) and Independent Liquor.