AB InBev offers to sell beer brands for early European Union approval

BRUSSELS (BLOOMBERG) - Anheuser-Busch InBev NV told European Union regulators it would sell beer brands including Peroni and Grolsch to win quick approval for its US$105 billion takeover of SABMiller.

The offer by the Budweiser brewer comes two months after it announced it was in exclusive talks to sell the SABMiller brands to Asahi Group Holdings Ltd. for 2.55 billion euros (S$3.9 billion).

"This proposal concerns the European premium brand families of Peroni, Grolsch and Meantime and their associated businesses in Italy, the Netherlands, U.K. and internationally, excluding certain U.S. rights," the company said in an e-mailed statement.

The European Union set a new May 24 deadline to rule on approving the deal or opening a longer investigation after the companies made an offer last week, regulators said on their website on Tuesday. The EU didn't say what the companies were prepared to do to allay any antitrust concerns.

AB InBev has already flagged plans to sell SABMiller's beer brands that might overlap with its own in Europe. Such early concessions involving a sale of a business unit can allow the EU to approve a deal quickly without opening a so-called Phase II probe lasting at least four months.

Trevor Stirling, an analyst at Sanford C Bernstein, said he would have been surprised if the concessions made to the European Union didn't include the Asahi sales.

"I'm at a loss as to what remedies AB InBev can offer in terms of further divestments," he said in a telephone interview.

London-based SABMiller didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.