On November 18, 2008, UK’s Office of Fair Trading (“OFT”) cleared InBev N.V/S.A.’s (“InBev”) $52 billion acquisition of Anheuser-Busch Companies Inc. (“Anheuser”). The new company, Anheuser-Busch InBev, will own InBev’s Stella Artois and Beck’s lager brands and Anheuser’s Budweiser lager brand.
The transaction cleared the OFT without any conditions, even though the newly merged company would own a market share ranging from 25% to 50%, depending on market segmentation. The investigation took 65 days. The OFT investigated two markets: the “on trade market,” which included pubs, bars, and restaurants, and the “off trade market,” which included supermarkets, off-licenses, and other retail outlets.
According to sales in the “on-trade market,” the OFT found that InBev’s Stella Artois was the leading premium draught lager while Budweiser was the leading bottled lager. InBev’s Beck’s brand was the second leading bottled lager, in terms of sales. However, the OFT determined that because of the small amount of sales of premium lager in bottles, the bottled Budweiser did not pose a significant competitive threat to Stella Artois, whose competitors are other premium and standard draught lager beers.
Clearance was also obtained for merger in the United States, Germany, Serbia, Brazil, and China. This merger was China’s first clearance under its new Anti-Monopoly Law, which went into effect on August 1, 2008.