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Sell a London craft brewer, buy a London craft brewer - Confusion at Anheuser-Busch InBev? - Editor's Viewpoint

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A relatively small transaction in the beer industry today has left me confused. Why would Anheuser-Busch InBev snap up a London-based craft brewer, when it has a staggeringly-similar entity waiting in the wings, once it completes its purchase of SABMiller? That AB InBev has lined up the sale of this SAB-owned brewer confuses me yet further.

What does Camden Town Brewery have that Meantime Brewing Co hasnt?

What does Camden Town Brewery have that Meantime Brewing Co hasn't?

Earlier today, AB InBev announced that it will acquire Camden Town Brewery for an undisclosed sum. This comes less than a month after the world's biggest brewer said it intends to listen to offers for SABMiller's Meantime Brewing Co, which SAB bought just seven months ago.

The reason AB InBev gave for looking to offload Meantime - along with Grolsch and Peroni Nastro Azzuro - was "to promptly and proactively address potential regulatory considerations".

Now, I'm not going to get involved in any 'multinational versus craft' rant here - Camden Town's founder fought that particular fight on Twitter earlier today. For me, the confusion is: What does Camden Town have for AB InBev that Meantime clearly does not?

The two craft players are strikingly similar: Both are based in London, both are playing in the same arena of craft in both the UK's on- and off-trade. They even sell similar amounts of beer - last year Meantime shifted just under 100,000 hectolitres while Camden Town managed about 60,000 hectolitres. Subsequently, what today's news suggests is that neither would realistically trouble any regulatory bodies, should AB InBev's SAB purchase proceed.

Am I jumping to conclusions? Could there be something I'm missing?

Connor Campbell, a senior market analyst at www.spreadex.com, suggested today that "Meantime may have not posted strong enough figures to impress its new overlords". With Meantime entering SABMiller's stable as recently as May, this strikes me as too short-termist, even for AB InBev.

When I asked AB InBev's UK unit about this, a spokesperson said: "There has been a mutual interest in working together with Camden Town Brewery and conversations have been happening with (co-founder) Jasper Cuppaidge for a while now."

If selling Meantime is not about bypassing regulatory issues, then, could it be that the right arm is not too aware of what the left arm is doing?


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