The brands to be sold are the Strongbow, Bonamy’s and Little Green cider brands; and the Stella Artois and Beck’s beer brands. The future buyer or buyers of these assets will need to be approved by the ACCC.
AB InBev announced it would sell the Australian subsidiary Carlton & United Breweries – one of Australia’s largest brewers - to Asahi last July for $16bn AUD /$11.3bn USD. AB InBev now expects the transaction to close as soon as possible in the second quarter of 2020.
In Australia, Asahi and CUB manufacture and supply a range of beer, cider and spirits products. Asahi’s beer brands include Asahi Super Dry, Peroni, Cricketers Arms, Grolsch, Mountain Goat, and Two Suns. In cider, Asahi licences Somersby cider from Carlsberg.
CUB’s beer brands include Victoria Bitter, Carlton Draught, Fat Yak, Crown Lager, Foster’s and Balter. CUB also licences and distributes a range of other beer brands including Corona, Stella Artois, Beck’s and Budweiser. Ciders include Strongbow, Mercury, Bonamy’s, Little Green, Spring Cider Co., Dirty Granny and Pure Blonde Cider. CUB also manufactures and distributes Bulmers under licence from Heineken.
In December 2019, the ACCC raised competition concerns about Asahi’s acquisition of Carlton & United Breweries over fears it could raise cider prices and reduce competition in the beer market. Today, however, it says the divesture of the five brands will allay concerns.
“The ACCC was concerned that without the divestments, the proposed acquisition would substantially lessen competition in the cider market and remove a vigorous and effective competitor in the beer market,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.
“Without the sale of five beer and cider brands including Strongbow and Stella Artois, the combined Asahi-CUB company would have accounted for two thirds of cider sales in Australia, and owned the two largest cider brands, Somersby and Strongbow.
“We determined that Asahi selling the beer and cider brands would be sufficient to address our competition concerns and provide an opportunity for another business to play an important role in a relatively concentrated industry.”