Brewer Anheuser-Busch Inbev NV has been cleared to complete the purchase of Craft Brew Alliance (CBA) in a $321m deal, a reversal of the brewing giant’s previous position that it would not expand on its existing stake.

The deal was announced in November 2019 however has been on hold since February 2020 when an antitrust investigation began.

As part of the agreement, the Department of Justice is requiring Anheuser-Busch to divest CBA’s entire Kona brand business in the state of Hawaii.  According to the department’s complaint, the acquisition of CBA likely would substantially lessen head-to-head competition in Hawaii between brands such as Stella Artois and Michelob Ultra, and CBA’s Kona brand.  If the transaction was allowed to proceed, Anheuser-Busch and CBA would have a combined share of approximately 41% in the moderately concentrated Hawaii beer market.

In August 2019, Anheuser-Busch said it would not buy out the company, which currently owns a 31.2% stake in Craft Brew.  Shares in Craft Brew soared 122.6% on news of the clearance.

Portland-based Craft Brew Alliance has a portfolio of regional breweries and lifestyle brands, and is a powerful addition to Anheuser-Busch as it continues to invest in the competitive craft brew category.

“CBA’s diverse portfolio of national lifestyle brands and award-winning regional breweries are an excellent complement to our family of craft partners,” said Marcelo Michaelis, president of ABI’s Brewers Collective business unit.

The deal is expected to close in 2020.

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