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Anheuser-Busch Gets U.S. Approval to Buy Modelo

NEW YORK (TheDeal) -- The Department of Justice Friday reached a settlement with Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV and Grupo Modelo SAB de CV allowing the companies to go through with their proposed $20.1 billion merger.

The agreement settles a DOJ lawsuit brought against the merger January 31.

The agreement requires the companies to divest Mexico City-based Modelo's entire U.S. business -- including licenses of Modelo brand beers, its most advanced brewery, Piedras Negras, its interest in Crown Imports LLC and other assets -- to Constellation Brands Inc., in order to go forward with their merger.

The department said the proposed settlement will maintain competition in the beer industry nationwide, benefitting consumers.

The department's lawsuit against the merger alleged that the deal as originally proposed would substantially lessen competition in the market for beer in the United States as a whole and specifically in 26 metropolitan areas across the United States, leading to higher prices for beer and would also limit the introduction of new beer brands. AB InBev and Modelo are the largest and third-largest beer sellers in the U.S., respectively, and combined they control about 46% of annual sales in the U.S. AB InBev is the brewer of Budweiser, Stella Artois, Beck's and many other brands.

"The proposed settlement announced today will create an independent, fully integrated and economically viable competitor to ABI," said Bill Baer, assistant attorney general in charge of the DOJ's antitrust division. "This is a win for the $80 billion U.S. beer market and consumers. If this settlement makes just a one percent difference in prices, U.S. consumers will save almost $1 billion a year."

The settlement is roughly the same as one ABI and Modelo offered in February but contains additional binding commitments to the revised transaction, which the DOJ said are designed to ensure a prompt divestiture of assets by AB InBev to Constellation, the necessary build-out of Modelo's Piedras Negras brewery by Constellation, as well as certain distribution guarantees for Constellation in the United States.

The Mexican Competition Commission approved the revised transaction in early April, and the transaction is expected to close in June.

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