There was never going to be any fundamental issue with AB InBev’s takeover of SABMiller in the Australian market, competition lawyer John Kettle reaffirmed as the ACCC gave its blessing to the beer merger.
The McCullough Robertson partner today told Australian Brews News the result was almost exactly as he expected, after earlier predicting the deal would get the nod.
“It’s not surprising, because really there was no structural change to the Australian market,” he said.
“The interesting thing is, they felt comfortable enough not to go to a Statement Of Issues [SOI].”
Kettle said the ACCC had likely forgone its opportunity to formally “take a good look under the hood of the car“ through an SOI, because it had already garnered enough information through its consultation with AB InBev and SABMiller.
“With the resources the ACCC has, they were probably quite happy to close the file… once it became clear what the commercial strategy would be and that the [Lion] agreements would be terminated for Corona and the other AB InBev brands in Australia,” he said.
However, Kettle pointed out that the contracts for Corona and other AB InBev brands were always going to be terminated, and he questioned whether they were really a genuine obstacle for the ACCC in any case.
“Corona’s a premium product anyway, as are the other brands. It’s not going to affect the pricing strategy around Corona or the other brands that are going to transfer from one licensee to another,” he said.