Distell accuses AB InBev, SABMiller merger of breach: South Africa regulator

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Anheuser-Busch InBev is pictured outside the brewer's headquarters in Leuven, Belgium February 28, 2019. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/File Photo

(Reuters) - South Africa's Competition Tribunal on Wednesday said it was looking into allegations by South African alcoholic drinks firm Distell Group DGHJ.J that the entity formed from the 2016 merger of the world's largest brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev with SABMiller breached merger conditions.

AB InBev ABI.BR and SABMiller were not immediately available for comment when contacted by Reuters.

Distell approached the Competition Commission with allegations that the merged entity removed competitors’ advertising material from retail outlets, among others, the tribunal said in a statement, adding that the Commission found there was no breach.

Distell has now asked for a detailed review and for a full investigation to be conducted, the competition regulator said.

The tribunal said that it will consider Distell’s submissions during a hearing scheduled for Thursday and Friday.

SABMiller argues that Distell’s complaint is an “attempt to restrict competition and is unrelated to the merger conditions” and that the complaints “have no merit and should be dismissed,” the tribunal added.

South Africa cleared Anheuser-Busch Inbev's $100 billion-plus deal to acquire SABMiller SAB.L in 2016 here. The sale of SABMiller's Distell stake was a condition of the Competition Tribunal's approval of the merger.

The merger brought together AB InBev's Budweiser, Stella Artois and Corona brands with SABMiller's Peroni, Grolsch and Pilsner Urquell and brews almost a third of the world's beer, dwarfing rivals Heineken HEIN.AS and Carlsberg CARLb.CO.

Reporting by Justin George Varghese in Bengaluru; Editing by Howard Goller