Beer drinkers sue to stop AB InBev's US$110b SABMiller Deal

[SAN FRANCISCO] Beer drinkers sued to block Anheuser-Busch InBev's US$110 billion SABMiller takeover, saying the deal would force them to pay more for lower quality.

The acquisition by the world's largest brewer of the second biggest would create a monopoly in the beer market in violation of US antitrust law, the beer drinkers contend.

Brewers of mass-market beer are trying to cut production and distribution costs as they lose sales to smaller independent brands in Europe and North America. Carlsberg A/S, the world's fourth-largest brewer, announced this month that it would eliminate 2,000 jobs.

The AB InBev lawsuit by San Francisco lawyer Joseph Alioto on behalf of 23 consumers was filed ON Tuesday in federal court in Oregon. The drinkers, who said they have bought products made by either or both companies, as well as craft beers, seek to permanently bar the sale.

AB InBev believes the lawsuit claims are without merit and intends to vigorously defend against them, said John Blood, vice president of legal and corporate affairs.

"The US beer market has never been more competitive, with strong growth from craft brewers, and nothing in this transaction will change that fact," Blood said in a statement.

SABMiller representatives didn't immediately respond to phone and e-mail messages after regular business hours Wednesday.

AB InBev's beers include Budweiser, Michelob and Rolling Rock. SABMiller's beers include Fosters, Miller and Grolsch. The two companies control about half the industry's profit.

Alioto in June 2013 lost a bid to block AB InBev's US$20 billion acquisition of Grupo Modelo SAB over similar claims. Before that, Alioto sued unsuccessfully in an effort to stop InBev's 2008 acquisition of Anheuser Busch Cos.

In October, AB InBev announced plans to sell bonds worth as much as $55 billion to finance the takeover, setting a record for debt issuance to fund a corporate acquisition, according to people familiar with the matter.

AB InBev has reached a US$12 billion side deal to sell SABMiller's stake in a joint venture with Molson Coors Brewing in an attempt to resolve antitrust concerns in the US.


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