beer festival zagreb, pivo.jpg
Photograph: Hina/ Dario GRZELJ/ dag

The European Union gave its blessing Tuesday to the merger of the world's two largest beer companies, Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller, as long as most of SABMiller's business in Europe is put up for sale.

The purchase of SABMiller by AB InBev, expected to be worth some 77 billion dollars, would be one of the biggest acquisitions in history.

"Today's decision will ensure that competition is not weakened in these markets and that EU consumers are not worse off," EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.

"Europeans buy about 125 billion euros [139.35 billion dollars] of beer every year, so even a relatively small price increase could cause considerable harm to consumers," she added. "It was therefore very important to ensure that AB InBev's takeover of SABMiller did not reduce competition."

Belgium-based AB InBev owns brands including the Beck's and Budweiser beer labels, while British-South African firm SABMiller produces Coors, Foster's and Miller beer, among others.

In Europe, the two companies are the third and fourth-largest brewers by volume following Heineken and Carlsberg, according to the European Commission, the EU's executive.

To win EU approval, AB InBev offered to sell "practically the entire SABMiller beer business in Europe," the commission said. The Brussels institution said this addresses its competition concerns.

The Japanese company Asahi is set to purchase SABMiller's business in Britain, France, Italy and the Netherlands, including the Peroni, Grolsch and Meantime brands.

The SABMiller assets in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia will also be sold to "one or two purchasers," in a transaction that can take place after the merger, AB InBev said in a statement.

"We are very pleased with the positive decision of the European Commission," AB InBev chief executive Carlos Brito said. "With this clearance, we remain firmly on track for a closing in the second half of 2016."

The merger has now been approved in 14 jurisdictions in the Asia-Pacific, Europe and Latin America, AB InBev said.

But it still has to win the backing of regulators in the United States, where the two beer giants have overlapping business. Expectations have been high that US authorities will also require the companies to divest some of their business.

"In the remaining jurisdictions where regulatory clearance is still pending, AB InBev will continue to engage proactively with the relevant authorities to obtain the necessary clearances as quickly as possible," the company said in its statement.

Related stories

Latest news

BASF sales down 18 per cent due to Gazprom asset swap

German chemicals giant BASF said Friday that its revenues decreased by 18 per cent, to 57.6 billion euros (60.9 billion dollars), in 2016, due mainly to a multibillion-euro asset swap with Gazprom, Russia's state-backed gas group.

New Delhi shocked at reports of Indian national dead in US shooting

India was in shock and dismay Friday at the news of the death of an Indian engineer in an alleged racially motivated killing in the United States earlier this week.

42 killed in car bombing in Syria's al-Bab, monitor says

At least 42 people are dead after a car bombing in Syria's northern city of al-Bab on Friday, a day after Turkish-backed rebels seized control of the city from the Islamic State extremist militia, a monitoring group reported.

Car bombing kills at least eight soldiers in Yemen

At least eight government soldiers died in a Friday car bombing in Yemen’s southern province of Abyan, a local security official said.

Report: FBI rejected White House request to deny Trump Russia links

The FBI declined a recent White House request to deny media reports about contact between campaign staff for US President Donald Trump and Russian intelligence before last year's election, CNN reported on Thursday.

Nearly 60% of lower secondary school pupils in EU studying more than one foreign language

Nearly 60 percent of lower secondary school pupils in the European Union studied more than one foreign language, the EU statistical office said.

Lethal nerve agent used to kill North Korean in Malaysia, police say

A nerve agent known as VX was used to kill Kim Jong Nam, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's estranged half-brother, in Malaysia last week, police said Friday.

Venezuela, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu lose UN vote over unpaid fees

Venezuela, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu are among six nations who have lost the right to vote at the United Nations General Assembly for not paying their compulsory annual contributions.

Alphabet's self-driving car company sues Uber over alleged theft

Alphabet's self-driving car company Waymo said Thursday it was suing Uber and its subsidiary Otto for allegedly stealing its technology and infringing its patents.

US, Mexico take "important steps" even as Trump voices indifference

Top US and Mexican diplomatic and security officials met on Thursday in Mexico City, as President Donald Trump in Washington expressed ambivalence about relations with the United States' southern neighbour.

US Supreme Court's Ginsberg emphasizes value of free press

US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg expressed optimism about the political future of the United States despite the polarized and combative political atmosphere that has marked the fledgling presidency of Donald Trump.

Top Trump aide Bannon points to promises kept, media fight

Top White House strategist Steve Bannon said Thursday US President Donald Trump is keeping the promises he made during his campaign on issues from immigration to job creation.