Anheuser-Busch-InBev Deal Likely Hit Wholesalers, Craft Brews Most

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Anheuser-Busch-InBev Deal Likely Hit Wholesalers, Craft Brews Most

The consolidation inherent in an InBev takeover of Anheuser-Busch Cos., which the latter brewer's board agreed to yesterday, will affect wholesalers much more profoundly than retailers, Nick Lake, v.p., client service, Beverage Alcohol, the Nielsen Co., told Progressive Grocer.

After an initially hostile response to the overtures of InBev, A-B's board agreed to accept Belgian brewer InBev's sweetened $52 billion takeover bid, which would create the world's largest brewer. The two parties said that the Anheuser-Busch board accepted the higher takeover offer Sunday night. The deal is expected to close by the end of the year.

"The merger is likely to be neutral for retailers, as Anheuser-Busch already markets Inbev's European brands, including Stella Artois and Becks in the U.S.," Lake told Progressive Grocer. "The biggest changes will be at the wholesaler level, as more and more consolidation will likely happen [since] the combination of MillerCoors and AB Inbev represents over 80 percent of the category volume," he explained. "It may become more difficult for some imports and independent craft brands to maintain shelf space, as both MillerCoors and AB Inbev bring cross-segment portfolios to the retailer."

The combined company will be called Anheuser-Busch InBev. InBev had said earlier the merger would make it the world's third-largest consumer products company by market capitalization, after Procter & Gamble and Nestle SA.

The deal will open the way for InBev to sell Budweiser in emerging markets such as China and Brazil.

InBev c.e.o. Carlos Brito will be c.e.o. of the combined company, while Anheuser-Busch c.e.o. August Busch IV would step back into a non-executive role, to become a member of the new company's board alongside one other nominee from Anheuser-Busch, who is yet to be named.

Shareholders will receive $70 a share, a $5 increase over the offer Anheuser-Busch rejected in June. Both companies' shareholders must approve the deal, as must U.S. and EU antitrust regulators.

InBev said it plans to use St. Louis as its North American headquarters, and that it will keep open all 12 of Anheuser-Busch's North American breweries should shareholders approve the deal.