The Asahi Group Holdings Ltd’s (Asahi) proposed acquisition of Carlton & United Breweries (CUB) will not be opposed after Asahi has undertaken to divest two of its beer brands and three of its cider brands.
The brands to be sold are the Strongbow, Bonamy’s and Little Green cider brands and the Stella Artois and Beck’s beer brands. The future buyer or buyers of these assets will need to be approved by the ACCC.
“The ACCC was concerned that without the divestments, the proposed acquisition would substantially lessen competition in the cider market and remove a vigorous and effective competitor in the beer market,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.
“Without the sale of five beer and cider brands including Strongbow and Stella Artois, the combined Asahi-CUB company would have accounted for two thirds of cider sales in Australia, and owned the two largest cider brands, Somersby and Strongbow.”
“We determined that Asahi selling the beer and cider brands would be sufficient to address our competition concerns and provide an opportunity for another business to play an important role in a relatively concentrated industry,” Mr Sims said.
Although Asahi supplies a relatively small share of beer sales in Australia, the ACCC was concerned the proposed acquisition would have removed a rival capable of competing strongly against the two largest beer brewers, CUB and Lion.
Asahi and CUB currently compete closely in the sale of premium international beers.
Asahi has provided a court-enforceable undertaking to the ACCC to divest the five brands. The undertaking also requires Asahi to ensure divested brands get the same access to bars, pubs and clubs as well as off-premise space under tap-tying agreements as Asahi’s brands for the next three years.
CUB’s parent, AB InBev, has also provided a court-enforceable undertaking to facilitate and not unreasonably withhold consent to the transfer of relevant beer brand rights and obligations to the future buyer or buyers.
The ACCC will issue a public competition assessment in due course. Further information is available at Asahi Group Holdings – Carlton & United Breweries (owned by Anheuser Busch InBev SA/NV).
In Australia, Asahi and CUB manufacture and supply a range of beer, cider and spirits products.
Asahi’s beer brands include Asahi Super Dry, Peroni, Cricketers Arms, Grolsch, Mountain Goat, and Two Suns. In cider, Asahi licences Somersby cider (from Carlsberg).
CUB’s beer brands include Victoria Bitter, Carlton Draught, Fat Yak, Crown Lager, Foster’s and Balter. CUB also licences and distributes a range of other beer brands including Corona, Stella Artois, Beck’s and Budweiser. CUB’s cider range includes Strongbow, Mercury, Bonamy’s, Little Green, Spring Cider Co., Dirty Granny and Pure Blonde Cider. CUB also manufactures and distributes Bulmers under licence from Heineken.
In December 2019, the ACCC raised competition concerns about the proposed deal.