ACCC will review Asahi’s CUB deal

22 July, 2019 by Andy Young

The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) has told TheShout that it will begin a public review of Asahi’s proposed $16bn deal to buy Carlton & United Breweries, once a submission is received.

The deal, which was revealed on Friday, would see Asahi become the biggest brewer in Australia, and would also mean that over 80 per cent of Australia’s beer market is owned by Japanese companies.

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An ACCC spokesperson told TheShout: “The ACCC has been notified of this proposed transaction by the parties involved. We will begin a public review once we receive a submission.”

John Kettle, a competition lawyer and partner with McCullough Robertson, told Fairfax Media that because of Lion’s market share and the growing strength of Australia’s craft beer category, he believed the deal was unlikely to face regulatory hurdles from the ACCC.

CUB’s CEO, Peter Filipovic, said he was looking forward to growing the business with Asahi.

“Carlton & United Breweries is very excited to be joining Asahi,” he said.

“We are a great Australian business, with iconic brands, world-class breweries and great people. These have made us the market leader in Australia and we look forward to growing the business and the beer category with Asahi.

“Not only will we continue to brew our famous beers such as VB and Carlton Draught in Australia, but we’ll join a company that has fantastic beers such as Asahi and Peroni.

“We look forward to continuing to be a vital part of the Australian community that we’ve served for more 180 years as we grow the business with Asahi.”

Peter Margin, Executive Chairman, Asahi Beverages added: “This is an exciting proposition for our business, and will support our vision to be the first choice in beverages.”

Dr Tim Cooper, Managing Director of Coopers Brewery, welcomed the news, saying he hoped he could lead to a more rational approach to business.

“I think [the sale of CUB] will be a good thing. The Japanese companies and particularly Japanese brewers will take a longer-term view of their investments than what obviously Anheuser-Busch InBev have done, and they will be more likely to invest in the market,” he told The Australian.

“It is generally positive and will see a more stable market.

“In terms of taking a longer-term view it means that not only might Asahi invest in the infrastructure, namely the breweries, but also I think take a less transactional approach.

“By which I mean CUB under Asahi might be less likely to chase short-term results and be focused more on how to build the business.

“Obviously CUB represents nearly half the whole market and if you add Asahi (brands) that’s 50 per cent, and to have such a big player adopting a more rational approach to business as opposed (to a) short-term transactional approach will be a good thing.”

The deal represents the latest investment by Asahi in growing its presence not just in Australia, but globally. In 2016 the company bought Peroni, Grolsch, Meantime plus a number of Eastern Europe brands including Pilsner Urquell from AB InBev (ABI), as part of ABI’s purchase of SABMiller.

The ACCC’s review may see Asahi have to sell some brands in order for the deal to go ahead, which is what happened to ABI when it bought SABMiller. If the deal goes ahead it see CUB have its fourth owner in eight years after SABMiller bought Foster’s Group in 2011, and then ABI bought SABMiller in 2016.