ABI looks at Grolsch, Peroni sales
SABMiller acquirer seeks to avoid possible reg issues
The complexities of Anheuser-Busch InBev’s as yet uncompleted bid for SABMiller have come to The Netherlands, Italy and the United Kingdom, with ABI exploring sales of London’s Meantime Brewery.
The announcement, made last week, includes a possible sale of additional SABMiller premium brands Peroni and Grolsch in addition to Meantime and the trio’s associated businesses in Italy, the Netherlands and the UK.
The explanation for a sale, which is being led by ABI in line with the co-operation agreement with SABMiller that was announced in November, is straightforward. Looking to expedite the transaction, ABI is acting to pre-empt possible European Commission objections and a possible investigation into competitive concentration in the premium beer segment.
While Meantime is a relatively small player in the overall UK market, there’s also the Miller Brands import business, which brings into the country Peroni amongst other SABMiller global brands. And sizeable volumes of Grolsch remain brewed under licence here by Molson Coors.
Add to this the presence of ABI’s existing premium lagers Stella Artois and Mexican import Corona – well, there may well be a case to be made that that too much of the premium beer segment would be in the hands of one company and thus worthy of a regulator’s interests.
Meantime was acquired by SABMiller as recently as this past May and was envisioned by the multinational brewer as developing as a centre for European beer and brand innovation.
Given the likely price tag and overlaps with existing brand portfolios and geographic presences, there isn’t a lengthy list of favoured potential bidders. The likely lads include venture capitalists with a three to five year outlook. This was the case with InBev’s assets in Eastern Europe that were spun off to venture capitalists in the wake of the Anheuser-Busch acquisition.
However, top of the list is Molson Coors, either as an immediate bidder or in three to five years after its cash reserves are replenished following its looming acquisition of SABMiller’s share of their American JV, MillerCoors.
An outsider possibility is Danish headquartered Royal Unibrew, which acquired Heineken’s Finnish assets in the form of second-ranked Hartwall in 2013. A bid for Grolsch would offer Unibrew new markets and new brands.
The unresolved complexities of the SABMiller agreed bid, notably the as yet unresolved future of SABMiller’s joint venture stake in Chinese market leader CR Snow, mean that it is unlikely to close until the second half of 2016.