This article is part of a Real Money series on a dozen companies investors should consider adding to their watch list of so-called "vice stocks."
Anheuser-Busch InBev's (BUD) - Get Report $106 billion bid to acquire the U.K.'s SABMiller took another step closer to becoming a reality, after regulators with the European Commission gave the tie-up a nod of approval Tuesday.
And that bodes well for Molson Coors (TAP) - Get Report -- a member of Real Money's "Vice Squad" watch list -- as it seeks its own approval for its $12 billion bid for full ownership of Chicago-based MillerCoors.
The AB InBev deal is still contingent to the sale of roughly $8 billion of SABMiller's businesses across Europe, and follows months of antitrust review within the European Union, since the proposed deal was launched last November.
Belgium-based AB InBev announced after the market closed Friday that it has agreed to sell a variety of SABMiller's assets in order to sidestep assertions that the merger would produce a brewing behemoth with an unfair share of the European market.
Shares of AB InBev jumped by more than 2% in morning trading Wednesday, after the brewer said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing that clearing the first major phase of the EU merger review represents a "significant milestone" and that the deal will likely close in the second half of the year.
Concessions include the sale of of brands including Peroni, Grolsch and Meantime, which operate primarily in Italy, the Netherlands and U.K. InBev also agreed to the sale of SABMiller's broader operations in Hungary, Romania, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland, according to its SEC filing.
"These divestments are conditional on the successful closing of the recommended combination of AB InBev with SABMiller," the brewer said in the filing, noting the European Commission will also have to approve "suitable purchasers" for the businesses.
With this clearance, AB InBev CEO Carlos Brito said the deal remains "firmly on track" for a closing in the second half of 2016. The company said in its filing it will continue to engage with authorities to obtain the necessary clearances as quickly as possible, noting that approval is still pending in the U.S. and Ecuador.
And the AB InBev deal helps clear the way for Denver-based Molson Coors' quest to acquire a 58% stake in MillerCoors, which it doesn't already own in a joint venture from rival SABMiller of London. The $12 billion bid is contingent on AB InBev's tie-up with SABMiller, and the two deals were announced simultaneously last fall.
Molson Coors has said the combined company will be "a game-changing opportunity" to broaden its share in the U.S. beer market, and expects to pull in sales of nearly $14 billion pro forma the acquisition, up from just $5.1 billion at Molson alone. Meanwhile, net income is projected to climb by about 29% from last year at Molson to roughly $461 million.
But the AB InBev deal may have recently encountered new regulatory hurdles, as U.S. regulators are beginning to probe the brewer's incentive structure, in which it "encourage independent distributors to sell more of its own beer brands at the expense of competing craft brews, according to a Wednesday Reutersreport.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held TK positions in the stocks mentioned.