There have been some big deals closed this week! On the travel front Alaska Airlines finished closing its deal with Virgin America and on the beer front we have the powerhouse AB InBev selling off some of its acquired brands to the Asahi Group, the Japanese beer giant. According to the New York Times — Asahi purchased a package of Central and Eastern European beer brands (including Chezch’s Pilsner Urquell, and Kozel and Poland’s Tyskie) for 7.8 billion dollars. Of course this is nothing compared to the 100+ Billion it paid to take over SABMiller but this is one of the after effects as Europe and its regulators, who take beer pretty seriously, had a few concerns about this beer behemoth. This is why they are selling those brands: They need to convince Europe that they are still living in a fair play, pro-consumer beer market. Easier said than done and this deal reminds us of just how big AB InBev’s share is in the market.
But what does this mean for the rest of us?
Well, a couple weeks back I wrote a beer review for 10 Barrel’s “Joe IPA”, a brew from my hometown. I mentioned in the write-up that I don’t think people should judge a recently purchased beer company too much, until you taste the beer and see if it’s changed. I was pleasantly surprised with Joe IPA as the taste was still top notch and still to this day I’m very pleased with the direction of the company, as long as they don’t change the beer. Here’s the thing. AB InBev bought out one of my favorite breweries. The beer is still the same however as the beer bohemoth keeps buying up more and more craft breweries, as they’ve been doing at an alarming rate, eventually the Uncle Sam is going to come knocking at their door with anti-trust/monopoly violations. It’ll play out something like this:
Sam: “Hey, AB (InBev but we’ll just call them AB)”
Sam, CONT’D : “Hey, AB. You home? I hear that you’re hoarding all of the beer.”
AB: “Oh Hey Sam, Yeah I’ve got a lot in here.”
Sam: “Can I come in?”
AB: “I suppose, though I’m not sure what you’ll find.”
Sam: “Holy S**t! That’s a lot of beer. How are people supposed to get beer if you’ve got it all in here?”
AB: “We’re selling at a decent price. Haven’t changed them one bit.”
Sam: “That’s not good enough. You need to sell some of your brands to make sure there is competition.”
Skipping some boring beats…
Sam: “Alrighty, I’ll sell Goose Island, Shock Top, Golden Road, and 10 Barrel. Will that do it?”
And that will do it. 10 Barrel as a brand of beer will be sold to… well, whoever is still out there to buy it. Maybe even Asahi? Will this new company change the taste? Maybe, maybe not, but it’s a lot more likely. See, 10 Barrel had an agreement with AB InBev with a “We’ll let you do your thing with a lot more money clause”. This new agreement with the new company is probably not going to stay in place and if anything, they are going to try to make that beer as profitable as it will most likely represent a new share in a new market. AB InBev is only buying these different breweries to subtract from the competition, and to make some nice profits at the same time. It’s easier to play the game when you’re the one who controls what people want. For a new company to take over a now divorced brand, they have to invest quick and churn a profit even faster. That’s why I’m a bit concerned with this recent sale of brands by AB InBev. I have nothing against Asahi. They’re a good brand that has come to dominate the Japanese beer market, but as I’m assuming with a new market, their stock is going to grow quick now that they have huge new brands in beer drinking countries. They need to keep up that pace or they’re going to crash. That’s the problem when you sell your brand — You don’t get a say in who buys you next.