Anheuser-Busch InBev has reached a final agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice that could settle a dispute over its $20.1 billion acquisition of the Mexican brewer Grupo Modelo.
The world's largest brewer has been trying since June to buy the half of Grupo Modelo that it doesn't already own. The Justice Department sued to block the deal out of concern that a company that massive would stifle competition in the U.S.
The companies involved in a complicated series of deals surrounding the acquisition have negotiated for months with Justice officials to try and clear the way. They submitted an agreement Friday to the court and if approved, it is expected to close in June.
AB InBev originally sought to get access to all of Modelo's business U.S. and abroad. But in an effort to appease regulators that blocked the deal, AB InBev later struck a side deal that gives control of the production of Corona and other Modelo beers sold in the U.S. to a competitor, Constellation Brands Inc.
The agreement announced Friday is similar to the modified deal, but instead requires the sale of Modelo's entire U.S. business to Constellation.
That would give Constellation not just the licenses of Modelo brand beers in the U.S., but also brewing capabilities so that it is not relying on AB InBev at all. The agreement also requires the sale of AB InBev's stake in a joint venture agreement and other assets, rights and interests so that Constellation can compete in the U.S. beer market independent of AB InBev.
"This is a win for the $80 billion U.S. beer market and consumers," said Bill Baer, assistant attorney general in charge of the DOJ's antitrust division. "If this settlement makes just a one percent difference in prices, U.S. consumers will save almost $1 billion a year."