AB InBev seeks to sell SABMiller's Grolsch, Peroni brands

BRUSSELS (REUTERS) - Anheuser-Busch InBev is looking to sell SABMiller's Grolsch and Peroni brands to address potential concerns among European competition regulators over its planned acquisition of the world's second largest brewer.

The sale of the brands and their related businesses in Italy, the Netherlands and Britain would be conditional on AB InBev acquiring SABMiller in a cash and share offer currently worth some 72 billion pounds (S$152 billion).

AB InBev said on Thursday it was also looking to sell Meantime Brewing Company, the London-based craft brewer that SABMiller announced it was buying only in May.

The Belgium-based brewer has already agreed to sell SABMiller's majority-stake in U.S. venture MillerCoors to Denver-based venture partner Molson Coors for US$12 billion.

"Like the previously announced disposal of the Miller business to Molson Coors, these steps reflect AB InBev's pro-active approach to addressing potential regulatory concerns," AB InBev, the world's largest brewer, said in a statement.

Potential buyers for Grolsch and Peroni, which could each be worth some $1 billion, are not obvious, with obstacles for major brewing groups like Heineken and Carlsberg. That could leave private equity groups as the most likely bidders.

Facing a US$3 billion break-up clause, AB InBev has a powerful incentive to facilitate the SABMiller deal. With Stella Artois and Beck's, AB InBev already has European lagers that it is marketing internationally. "What they really want is Africa and bits of Latin America. If you said they couldn't include some SABMiller brands in Europe, you'd bet they'd take that," said Societe Generale beverage analyst Andrew Holland.

With SABMiller, AB InBev is buying into countries such as Colombia and Peru and crucially, Africa, while markets such as the United States are weakening as drinkers shun mainstream lagers in favour of craft brews and cocktails.

Beverage analysts have identified the new company's business in China, where SABMiller has a stake in market leader CR Snow, as a regulatory hurdle, but it is not clear whether EU regulators would insist on divestments in Europe.