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Anheuser-Busch, DOJ reportedly close to $20 billion merger deal

The U.S. government sued to block the AB InBev-Grupo Modelo merger in January, citing antitrust concerns

A blockbuster merger between Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev) and Corona beer maker Grupo Modelo may pass Department of Justice (DOJ) scrutiny after all, now that the breweries have reportedly restructured the takeover to alleviate antitrust concerns.

AB InBev already owns a 50 percent noncontrolling stake in the Mexican brewery, but antitrust officials balked at a deal in which AB InBev would have acquired the rest of Grupo Modelo for $20.1 billion. The takeover would have given the third-party Constellation Brands Inc., a wine maker and distributor, the right to market, price and distribute the Modelo brands in the U.S. for at least 10 years.

The inclusion of Constellation was intended to quell antitrust fears, but the DOJ sued to block the deal nonetheless, arguing that the acquisition would reduce competition and raise prices for consumers. In court filings, the agency contended that although Grupo Modelo holds only a 7 percent share in the domestic beer market, the brewery has historically put pressure on AB InBev and its major competitor MillerCoors to keep prices low.

The revised deal will reportedly give Constellation permanent rights to five Modelo brands for $4.75 billion—so that AB In-Bev cannot buy back control of U.S. pricing and distribution. AB InBev will also sell Modelo’s Piedras Negras brewery to Constellation, giving the company its own supplier, according to the Wall Street Journal.

For more InsideCounsel coverage of the beer industry, see:

Anheuser-Busch sues ex-manager, claims he divulged trade secrets

Suit says Anheuser-Busch waters down its beers

DOJ sues to block beer merger

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