The Maker of Bud Wants to Buy the Maker of Miller

Drunk on antitrust.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Because no amount of fizzy yellow water can quench its thirst for market share, Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s No. 1 beer-maker, is reportedly talking to bankers about plans to buy No. 2, SABMiller. Between them, the companies control almost one-third of the planet’s beer sales. Nothing is formal yet, according to the Wall Street Journal, but AB InBev has been trying to secure financing in order to make the long-rumored marriage a reality.

AB InBev owns Budweiser, while SABMiller produces Miller (as well as Milwaukee’s Best, Keystone Ice, Leinenkugel, and more). It would be bad for American consumers if the two companies were allowed to combine their stateside operations, but chances are that won’t happen thanks to antitrust concerns. When AB InBev purchased Corona-maker Grupo Modelo last year, the Justice Department forced it to spin off a new brewer that would produce all of the Mexican beer titan’s brands in the U.S., thus preserving domestic competition. Something similar might happen in the event that AB InBev gobbles up SABMiller.

As of now, SABMiller’s brands are brewed and sold in the U.S. by MillerCoors, a company it co-owns with Molson Coors, maker of Coors and Coors Light. The two created the joint venture in 2007 in order to better compete with Anheuser-Busch; today, it controls about 27 percent of the American market, according to data from Beer Marketer’s Insights, versus AB InBev’s 45.6 percent share. Should AB InBev manage to buy SABMiller, it will likely have to sell off MillerCoors to placate regulators.

So in short, even if this monster merger were to happen, there will probably still be plenty of competition among makers of mass-market American swill.