Anheuser-Busch InBev announced Friday that it has settled a Justice Department antitrust lawsuit, clearing the way for its $20.1 billion deal to take control of Grupo Modelo, the maker of Corona and other beers. As part of the settlement, AB InBev will sell Modelo's half-stake in Crown Imports, U.S. distributor of Modelo brands, to Constellation Brands, which owns the other half share.
The Justice Department is using game theory to explain why it is blocking Anheuser-Busch InBev's bid to buy the second half of Grupo Modelo, maker of Corona. The theory is that a larger Anheuser-Busch will be able to raise prices across brands, but representatives from the brewer said the acquisition would help it implement a larger, global strategy. The brewer posted a volume increase last year, thanks in part to new products Budweiser Black Crown and Bud Light Platinum.
The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit that seeks to stop Anheuser-Busch InBev from buying Mexican brewer Grupo Modelo, maker of Corona, claiming that it would create a monopoly that would drive up the cost of beer. Modelo is "an important competitive force in the beer industry" -- one that should not be eliminated, said Bill Baer, head of the Department of Justice's Antitrust Division. Anheuser-Busch InBev responded by calling the suit "inconsistent with the law, the facts and the reality of the market place," but the company acknowledged that it won't be able to close the deal this quarter as planned.
Carlos Fernandez, CEO of Grupo Modelo, might face increased pressure to sell the family-owned business to Anheuser-Busch InBev, which owns a 50.2% noncontrolling stake. Fernandez said one goal for the maker of Corona Extra and Modelo Especial is to "have almost 50% of our revenues coming from foreign markets."
An arbitration panel ruled that InBev's merger with Anheuser-Busch did not violate an investment agreement with Grupo Modelo. Grupo Modelo, Mexico's largest beer maker, will probably be purchased entirely by Anheuser-Busch InBev this year, according to industry observers.