Huge brewery merger clears final major hurdle. What’s it mean for us?

The giant brewery merger between AB InBev (think Budweiser) and SABMiller (Miller Lite) has been approved by shareholders of both companies, the Associated Press reports this morning. And the impact of that mega-merger will be felt in southwest and central Ohio.

The deal worth over $100 billion will combine the world’s two biggest beer companies. It cleared its last major hurdle today when the shareholders of SABMiller approved the takeover by Anheuser-Busch InBev.

SABMiller shareholders approved the $103 billion deal — dubbed Megabrew — despite opposition from some investors who saw their share of the payout shrink when the pound plunged following Britain’s vote to the leave the European Union, the AP reported. AB InBev shareholders also backed the transaction. A British court must still approve the measure next week, but the hearing is considered a formality.

But what is a worldwide marriage between two global mega-breweries is actually a divorce in the U.S., because Anheuser-Busch’s parent agreed to sell SABMiller’s entire U.S. business to Molson Coors. That means Budweiser would continue to compete with Miller beer in the United States.

>> AB InBev says it has U.S. approval for SABMiller merger

The merger certainly has a potential impact directly on hundreds of workers in southwest and central Ohio.

SABMiller’s U.S. operations include a MillerCoors brewery in St. Clair Twp. just outside Trenton in Butler County. MillerCoors is a joint venture of SABMiller and Molson Coors. The Trenton brewery produces more than 9 million barrels — more than 270 million gallons — of beer a year. It recently celebrated its 25th anniversary, produces 63 different beer brands and employs about 550.

It may be reassuring to employees that the plant already was a joint venture with Miller’s soon-to-be sole owner, Molson Coors.

In addition, Brock Anderson III — CEO of Dayton-based Bonbright Distributors, which delivers Miller and Coors products to bars and restaurants in much of southwest and west-central Ohio — told this news outlet last September that he believed the Trenton brewery was safe no matter the outcome of the potential buyout talks. It is one of the newer and larger breweries, and the announced closure of a different Miller production facility in North Carolina made the remaining breweries more secure, Anderson said.

>> At 25 years, Butler County brewery toasts economic, personal impact

AB Inbev/Anheuser-Busch operates a Budweiser plant in Columbus with an even larger annual production than the MillerCoors plant — 10 million barrels a year, or more than 300 million gallons. The brewery, open since 1968, produces 20 Anheuser-Busch brands, primarily Budweiser and Bud Light.

As for “Joe Sixpack” and the Dayton’s area’s flourishing craft-brewery scene, the mergery’s impact might be bad news, in the form of higher prices and choked distribution channels, according to one industry analysis.

>> Anheuser-Busch pitches takeover of Miller

In November 2014, when the proposed AB InBev-SABMIller merger was still just a rumor, the American Antitrust Institute submitted a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division saying such a merger would harm consumers and the craft-beer movement.

The combined company “would have even greater control of distribution and retail channels and could use this enhanced power to undermine the continued emergence of craft beer, which has led to greatly increased beer choice for Americans,” the institute said. The new company also “may be able to impose significant price increases on consumers,” the AAI said.

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