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Asahi bottle (Photo: Bob Jansen on Unsplash)
08 April 2020

Questions over Asahi-CUB transaction

Australia | Observers have been baffled by the whole process of getting Asahi’s takeover of Carlton & United Breweries (CUB) okayed by the authorities. The USD 11.3 billion deal with AB-InBev was announced in July 2019 and only in April 2020 did the competition watchdog relent.

For one, the whole procedure has taken inordinately long. So long that CUB could purchase craft brewer Balter in December 2019. Balter produced 50,000 hl beer in 2019, and allegedly CUB paid between AUD 150 million and AUD 200 million (USD 140 million) for the firm.

Observers wonder if Asahi was happy with this purchase or had no legal muscle to stop it.

For another, it was Asahi, the buyer, that offered to divest of three cider and two beer brands to get the green light. Wouldn’t that have been the seller’s – AB-InBev – job? After all, CUB holds the licences to the beer brands Stella Artois and Beck’s from AB-InBev, plus Strongbow cider from Heineken, which are now to be offloaded.

And finally, the wording used by Asahi – that it would “sell” the brands – was most unusual. How can Asahi “sell” a licence? Licensing agreements are discretionary in the sense that it is up to the ultimate licence owners (AB-InBev and Heineken), not the licensee Asahi, to decide who is going to get the licence eventually.

All this is most perplexing.

Read more about the Asahi-CUB transaction: Why did the Australian watchdog clear Asahi's takeover of CUB? How do the Australian Craft Brewers react?