A couple weeks ago, while enjoying a pint at a brewery in a small town in Oregon, I overheard a beer distributor talking about all the recent mergers and acquisitions. He had a curiously simplistic take on it all: “Beer will always be in demand. The logo on the side of the truck is what changes.”
Well get ready for another logo change because AB InBev just won approval for its $100 billion takeover of SABMiller, which will be one of the largest acquisitions in corporate history. On Oct. 11 AB InBev will drop the SABMiller name and begin trading as a combined company.
According to this Wall Street Journal article, the deal turns AB InBev (maker of “America” beer) into a brewing powerhouse with an estimated 46% of global beer profits and 27% of global volume, lessens its dependence on the U.S. and gives it sprawling operations across 17 African countries.
To gain regulatory approval, AB InBev had to sell off dozens of brands, including Miller Lite, Peroni and Snow, the world’s top-selling beer. It also sold SABMiller’s 58% interest in the joint venture with MillerCoors to Molson Coors Brewing.
This is yet another shuffle that makes it increasingly difficult to know who owns which brewery.
What this means for craft beer is unclear. It could be business as usual – as if there’s even a “usual” in the beer business anymore. Or it could mean even more challenges with regards to distribution, pricing, access to shelf space and tap handles, etc.
Over the past many years, “Big Beer” has been losing market share in the U.S., but that doesn’t seem to be the case when it comes to the international market, especially in developing countries. In my opinion, this new acquisition seems to be right in line with AB InBev’s two-part strategy: Controlling and selling industrial light lagers across the globe while acquiring and growing their “craft” brands in the U.S.
Time to make some popcorn. And where can I buy stock in truck-painting companies?