AB InBev cleared another hurdle in its £71bn bid to take over SABMiller yesterday but faced fresh challenges in Europe.
The Competition Tribunal of South Africa – a key obstacle to overcome in securing the deal – yesterday gave regulatory approval, meaning AB InBev has secured approval in 16 jurisdictions.
However, European Union competition regulators are now investigating whether AB In-Bev is abusing its dominant position in Belgium by illegally seeking to block cheaper imports of its beers from neighbouring countries.
The European Commission said: “AB InBev may be pursuing a deliberate strategy to restrict so-called parallel trade of its beer from less expensive countries, such as the Netherlands and France, to the more expensive Belgian market.”
The commission intends to investigate potentially anticompetitive practices, including changing the packaging of beer cans and bottles to make it harder to sell them in other countries and limiting non-Belgian retailers access to rebates and key products to prevent them from importing cheaper beers to Belgium.
The company could face a fine equivalent to 10% of revenues if it is found guilty.
A spokesman for the brewer said: “We are fully co-operating with the European Commission. It would not be appropriate for us to comment on the substance or potential consequences of the ongoing investigation by the commission.”