Brewing giant Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev) said on Friday (29 April) that it intends to sell some of SABMiller's Central and Eastern European brands as it seeks regulatory approval to clinch its proposed $100bn (£68.3bn, €87.7bn) takeover of the London-listed company.
AB, which earlier this month revealed it had accepted a €2.55bn bid from Japan-based Asahi Group for SABMiller's Peroni, Grolsch and Meantime brands and their related businesses, unveiled plans to SABMiller's businesses in Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Romania.
The European Union's antitrust regulator, the European Commission, has been notified of the decision and will deliver a verdict in just under a month, on 24 May, the group added, indicating the sale of SABMiller's businesses in central Europe remains subject to AB concluding its takeover.
Eastern and central Europe have never featured prominently in AB's core business – the brewer has barely any operations outside Ukraine and Russia – and the decision has left analysts surprised.
"It seems slightly strange," said Andrew Holland, beverage analyst at Societe Generale. "There is no antitrust overlap that I can see. AB InBev has no presence to speak of in these countries. Perhaps the EU is looking at the pan-European market share."
The Belgian-American group added the disposal plans included a number of high-profile brands, such as Czech Republic's Pilsner Urquell and Dreher in Hungary, which are expected to attract a number of potential suitors.
However, fellow brewing giants such as Carslberg, Heineken and Molson Coors could incur antitrust issues if they were to submit a bid for the business, unless each brewery was to be sold individually.
AB InBev is understood to be keen to complete the takeover of SABMiller to access the latter's assets in rapidly emerging markets such as Latin America and Africa, rather than concentrating on Europe, where beer consumption is already extremely high.
In 2008, after completing takeover of Anheuser-Busch, AB InBev sold its operations in a number of central and eastern European countries, including Romania and Czech Republic, to CVC Capital Partners for approximately $2.2bn.