AB InBev ponders sale of beer brands to ease SABMiller takeover
Beer brands including Peroni, Grolsch and London's Meantime brewery are being eyed for sale as Anheuser-Busch InBev looks to gain regulatory clearance for its £71 billion takeover of SABMiller.
SAB said AB InBev was mulling sales of a raft of premium brands across the UK and Europe to help ease regulatory concerns over the deal, which was formally agreed last month after protracted talks.
The brands being considered for sale include Peroni and Grolsch and their businesses in Italy, the Netherlands and the UK, as well as SAB's Meantime craft brewery in Greenwich, London.
AB InBev said it will start contacting potential buyers for the brands in the coming weeks, although any sale would be conditional on its takeover of SAB going through.
The move comes after AB InBev announced the sale of SABMiller's US joint venture last month, with partner Molson Coors agreeing to buy the remaining 58% stake in MillerCoors for 12 billion US dollars (£7.9 billion).
AB InBev is seeking to get the green light from authorities for the deal, which marks the largest takeover of a UK-based firm as well as the fourth biggest in global corporate history.
The firms are the two biggest brewers in the world and between them own a raft of some of the best known brands, bringing together SAB's Peroni and Grolsch with AB InBev's Budweiser, Corona and Stella Artois.
Alan Clark, chief executive of SABMiller, said: "Under SABMiller's stewardship, Peroni and Grolsch have become world-renowned premium beer brands.
"Meantime has been a welcome addition to SABMiller and has a growing and loyal fan base.
"These beers are loved by consumers and we are very proud of them. Until the change of control we will continue to invest in growing these great beers and supporting our talented people who brew, sell and manage them."
SAB has invested heavily in Peroni in recent years, marketing the brand across Europe and America to help cement the lager as a global brand, alongside Grolsch.
A sale of Meantime would bring to a close a brief spell under SAB's ownership for the brewery, which was only bought by the group in May.
SAB, which was founded in South Africa, snapped it up under plans to tap into the burgeoning UK craft beer market.
Meantime was founded 15 years ago by brewer Alastair Hook and its most popular brews include London Lager, London Pale Ale and London Porter.
AB InBev last month revealed plans to make savings of at least 1.4 billion US dollars (£924 million) a year from the combined group.
It said cost-cutting following the deal will see support functions trimmed where they overlap, particularly in merging corporate headquarters and overhauling regional head offices.
SAB employs around 69,000 people in more than 80 countries and has global annual sales of more than 26 billion US dollars (£17 billion).
It has around 800 staff in the UK, with a corporate office in London and an office in Woking, while it also owns the Meantime brewery.
AB InBev's takeover of SAB is expected to go through in the second half of 2016, if it gets clearance from regulators and shareholders.