DOJ Assistant Attorney General William Baer’s First Merger Challenge Confirms Continued Aggressive Merger Enforcement by Antitrust Division

On January 31, 2013, the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) filed its first lawsuit challenging a merger under newly sworn-in Assistant Attorney General, William J. Baer. Both the facts and circumstances surrounding the suit confirm that the Antitrust Division under Baer’s leadership will maintain its aggressive merger enforcement program.

The DOJ challenged Anheuser-Busch Inbev’s (“ABI”) $20.1 billon proposed acquisition of competitor Grupo Modelo (“Modelo”), claiming that it would lessen competition in the market for beer in the United States as a whole as well as in 26 metropolitan areas, resulting in increased beer prices and decreased options. ABI and Modelo, respectively the largest and third largest beer firms, together control about 46 percent of U.S. sales. MillerCoors, the second largest beer firm, accounts for approximately 29 percent of nationwide sales. Last year, beer accounted for $80 billion of consumer spending.

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