Competition regulator the ACCC approved the acquisition of Carlton and United Breweries by Asahi yesterday, which the Japanese-owned firm welcomed, with other industry representatives including Cider Australia saying it was a “great outcome”.
However the IBA released a statement to Brews News today saying that it feels that the deal will lead to further anti-competitive practices.
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ACCC throws draught beer drinkers to the wolves: Asahi acquisition of CUB will lead to further restriction in consumer beer choice
Australia’s 650 independent brewers across the country, currently reeling from the damage caused by COVID-19, were today dealt a further blow by the ACCC allowing Asahi to buy CUB, ultimately decreasing competition and consumer choice in pubs everywhere.
The Independent Brewers Association (IBA) has strongly been opposed this merger and the ACCC initially saw Asahi as an important competitive force in the market, providing competitive pressure on the duopoly that exists between CUB and Lion.
“The move by Asahi to acquire CUB is an admission that this space is already too concentrated and that the only way to break into the draught beer market is to acquire businesses with existing tap contracts,” said Peter Philip, IBA Chair.
“The large brewers know this and use their scale and resources to implement a number of restrictive business practices which have severely constrained the growth of small independent brewers when it comes to on-premise supply of draught beer.
“The loser here will be consumers as these multinational Goliaths use their massive balance sheet and nearly unlimited resources to further dominate beer taps in pubs across the country, effectively shutting out small independent breweries.
The IBA are disappointed that the ACCC accepted the token undertaking from CUB to divest the two beer brands Beck’s and Stella Artois.
In an IBA submission to the ACCC, the IBA made the point that divestment of these two brands make up such a small percentage of taps in pubs as to be meaningless in balancing out the anti- competitive nature of the acquisition.
“It’s really disappointing to see that the ACCC thinks that the profit of big multinational businesses outweigh the impact that this merger will have on small family owned Aussie brewers. ”
The IBA will now be asking consumers to back a campaign to break open tap contracts and the anti- competitive practices used by multinational mega-brewers Asahi and Lion to restrict consumer choice by locking out small independent breweries.
“This practice has gone on too long and the unwillingness of the ACCC to step in to protect consumer choice means that we need to take this to the highest levels of Government.
“All we’re asking for is a level playing field, surely having an open and competitive beer market is good for consumers. Isn’t the role of the ACCC to ensure Australian’s have the widest choice of beers available at the best price?” says Philip.