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AB InBev Buys Devils Backbone, Sells SABMiller Beer Brands

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The Belgium-based brewing company Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV BUD, alias AB InBev, was in the limelight yesterday after sources revealed that it has embarked upon another deal to strengthen its position in the booming craft beer segment. Also, a lot of eyes turned toward the company’s plans to divest some of SABMiller plc’s SBMRY premium European beer brands in order to get the European Commission’s approval for its pending merger with SABMiller.

The company’s latest venture to expand its craft beer exposure comes with an agreement to acquire Virginia-based craft brewer, Devils Backbone Brewing Company. This act is not new for the Budweiser maker as it has been aggressively acquiring small craft beer rivals to expand its portfolio. In 2015, AB InBev acquired four craft brewers and a cider producer in the U.S. This deal, which is anticipated to close in the second quarter of 2016, will mark AB InBev’s seventh buyout in the craft and import brands business, since 2011.

With this deal, Devils Backbone’s popular brands, namely Vienna Lager, Eight Point IPA and Schwartz Bier will join AB InBev’s superior brands including Four Peaks, Goose Island, Blue Point, 10 Barrel, Elysian and Golden Road.

Devils Backbone was founded in 2008 by Steve and Heidi Crandall, inspired by the taste of Germanic style beer. In the first three years of operation, the company produced nearly 45,000 barrels. The company’s most popular brand, Vienna Lager contributed nearly 60% to its volume growth in 2015. Devils Backbone also owns a brewpub, Basecamp, and a brewery and taproom in Lexington, VA.

Though the craft beer industry mainly comprises small players, a closer view reveals that there is a lot of consolidation and expansion activity currently going on among the industry’s largest brewers. This is evident from a series of acquisitions that have recently taken place within the space. Some of the beer biggies interested in expanding their craft beer portfolio include Constellation Brands Inc. STZ, Heineken and Boston Beer Co.

Coming to the progress on the AB InBev-SABMiller deal, sources revealed that AB InBev is leaving no stone unturned to gain the approval of the European Commission for its $105 billion deal with SABMiller. Recently, the company informed the European Union (EU) authority of its intention to sell three of SABMiller’s premium European beer brands to a Japanese brewing company, Asahi Group Holdings Ltd., for 2.55 billion euros.

The sale will include SABMiller’s Peroni, Grolsch and Meantime brands, along with their related businesses in Italy, the Netherlands, U.K. and internationally, minus certain U.S. rights. The EU has set May 24 as the deadline to provide its ruling on the deal.

Additionally, AB InBev has agreed to divest SABMiller's 58% stake in MillerCoors to Molson Coors Brewing Co. TAP for about $12 billion, in order to satisfy the U.S. regulators.

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