South African Competition Commission approves AB InBev, SABMiller merger on conditions

The South African Competition Commission said on Tuesday it had approved the merger of AB InBev and SABMiller on the condition that AB InBev sell SABMiller’s 26% stake in Distell Group, a major producer of wines, cider and spirits in the country. According to Bloomberg, Distell is worth $559m.

The anti-trust regulator said that AB InBev must divest itself of Distell within three years of closing the deal. The commission is of the view that retaining the stake could hurt competition and lead to “the exchange of commercially sensitive information between AB InBev and Distell,” it said.

Remgro, the investment company that jointly owns a majority stake in Distell, said last year that it and its partner may be interested in buying the SABMiller shareholding. Distell’s brands include Savanna cider and Klipdrift brandy.

Other conditions include a call for AB InBev post merger to keep its bottling operations for Coca-Cola and Pepsi separated; to ensure that competitors are not prevented from buying bottle caps from the producer, Coleus that AB InBev jointly owns; and to give smaller beer producers access to beverage coolers it supplies to retailers and taverns.

The commission also called for the combined company to set up a fund of 1 billion rand ($64 million) for South African agriculture development and employment protections, among other terms.

The deal now goes to South Africa’s Competition Tribunal for a final decision.

Anheuser-Busch InBev officials said in a statement that the company is “pleased” with the Competition Commission’s recommendation, which represents “an important milestone” in securing regulatory approval in South Africa.

Combined with the European Commission’s approval last week, AB InBev said it believes it is “well on track” to getting needed regulatory approvals to allow for the deal to close in the second half of this year.

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