UK: OFT sets deadline for Interbrew/Bass dispute
The UK government ordered in January that the acquisition be reversed over fears it would cause an uncompetitive duopoly, which woul dbe damaging to the industry and harm consumer choice and pockets.
But the competition authorities have now have reopened their investigations into the deal, after objections to the merger were questioned by the High Court.
The takeover left Interbrew as the world's second largest brewer and in control of more than 30% of the UK beer market, which the government said raised the competition concerns.
But the ruling was thrown into doubt last month when Judge Alan Moses said that Competition Commission investigators, had used "unfair" procedures in reaching their conclusions.
Judge Moses concluded that although the competition fears were legitimate Interbrew had not been given any leeway in answering those fears.
"The [government] must, therefore, reconsider the question of remedies and has asked the OFT to consult further on the issue and give him fresh advice," the OFT said in a statement on Wednesday.
According to BBC reports, the OFT will later in July make a formal recommendation to the government on whether the merger should, after all, be approved.
Observers have told just-drinks they expect Interbrew to be asked to lower its market share to around that of Scottish Courage, about 28%. Rather than being forced to sell Bass in ties entirety, the Belgian brewer could sell off brands in a piecemeal fashion.
It is likely it will still have to sell Carling, but may be allowed to keep Tennants, with its Scottish dominance.
Companies: Anheuser-Busch InBev
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