Consumers Sue To Stop $107B Mega-Beer Merger

Anheuser-Busch InBev’s formal $107 billion bid to acquire SABMiller is far from a done deal: federal regulators will likely be combing through the details of the proposal for quite some time to determine how it will affect the global beer markets, and consumers’ wallets. But it looks as if lovers of the sudsy drinks are a bit ahead of the game, filing a lawsuit to stop the mega-merger.

Bloomberg reports that nearly two dozen consumers filed a joint lawsuit against AB InBev in an attempt to stop the deal, claiming it would force them to pay more for a lower quality product.

Among other things, the suit claims the merger between the world’s largest and second largest brewer would create an illegal monopoly.

The 23 consumers who filed the complaint in Oregon say they have purchased products from both SABMiller and InBev in the past.

For its part, AB InBev maintains that the lawsuit’s claims are without merit and intends to vigorously defend itself and the billion-dollar deal, Bloomberg reports.

“The U.S. beer market has never been more competitive, with strong growth from craft brewers, and nothing in this transaction will change that fact,” the company said in a statement to Bloomberg on Thursday.

SABMiller declined to comment on the suit.

Antitrust experts have expressed concerns over the merger ever since the rumblings of the deal first made waves in the fall, noting that most plausible scenarios would spell higher prices, fewer choices, and a harder life for smaller craft brewers.

Last month InBev attempted to squash those concerns when it announced a finalized deal outlining plans for SABMiller to sell its 58% stake in MillerCoors to its joint-venture partner Molson Coors Brewing, which already owns 42% of the brand, for $12 million.

The companies say the massive sell-off plan [PDF] is meant to “promptly and proactively address regulatory considerations.”

The fate of the MillerCoors brand was one of the largest concerns for antitrust experts who widely agreed that regulators would not approve the deal without the divestiture. If AB InBev and SABMiller were to merge without selling off that stake in MillerCoors, the combined company would control an astounding 70% of the U.S. beer market.

The deal to sell MillerCoors to Molson is contingent on the completion of the SABMiller/AB InBev deal and is expected to close in mid-2016.

Beer Drinkers Sue to Stop AB InBev’s $110 Billion SABMiller Deal [Bloomberg]