Big Beer Gets Bigger: InBev Buying Out Modelo

InBev, the world's largest beer company, is in the process of acquiring the 50% of Modelo, the 7th largest, it doesn't already own.  This is just astounding:

The world’s top five brewers already control almost half of the global beer market, leaving remaining players such as Molson Coors Brewing Co. to scratch out smaller deals in emerging markets or defend themselves against a takeover....  AB InBev, based in Leuven, Belgium, has led the spree, spending more than $70 billion to snap up dozens of brewers. It was formed in the $52 billion 2008 takeover of Budweiser maker Anheuser Busch Cos. by InBev NV, the biggest of the decade. AB InBev controls 18 percent of the global beer market, while SABMiller has 9.8 percent. (My bold.)
In the US, the deal would give InBev 56% of the market (up from the 48% it currently owns).  Of course, InBev's appetite for consolidation has provoked the other giants to start snacking as well:
Carlsberg A/S (CARLA), the world’s fourth-biggest brewer with a 5.6 percent market share, has said it’s looking to buy assets in Asia.... SABMiller bought Foster’s to expand in the mature market of Australia. Molson Coors agreed to buy StarBev LP for 2.65 billion euros ($3.3 billion) in April, moving into Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. 
Though not always with success:
Heineken, the world’s third-largest brewer with 8.8 percent of the market, also has said it’s interested in emerging-market assets. The brewer bid for Cerveceria Nacional Dominicana, the Dominican Republic’s biggest beermaker, Reuters reported March 27, citing unidentified people with knowledge of the matter. AB InBev ended up agreeing in April to buy CND for $1.24 billion. 
Amazingly, InBev is apparently eyeing SABMiller as well, though the Modelo deal will apparently slow down that deal. 

Since it's cheap blogging to just just rip off Bloomberg, I'll add a bit of analysis.  I think, counterintuitively, that this isn't a sign of strength in the world of big beer.  The market for commercial pale lagers (or whatever you want to call them) is in remission in mature markets.  These companies are scrambling to snap up other breweries because they've already plateaued in their home markets--or more often, have begun to decline.  Seizing a share of the growing market for pale commercial lagers in Asia and South America makes good sense, but it's an admission of how bad things are in Europe and North America for those companies. 

As a good beer fan in the US, it doesn't bother me in the least to watch the international blood bath over who's going to get to sell declining brands.  (Though Grupo Modelo's dominance of the Mexican market, where they inhibit craft brewing, is troubling.)  Indeed, this period of global consolidation is happening in the midst of a renaissance among small breweries.  So pass the popcorn and let's enjoy the show.
Jeff Alworth4 Comments