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Commission keeps brewers’ merger on ice

| Wine and liquor

The Competition Commission has for the fifth time delayed its examination of Anheuser-Busch InBev’s (AB InBev’s) planned $108bn takeover of SABMiller.

It was due to finalise its investigation on Thursday, after it was granted a 15-day extension to complete its scrutiny, but has now asked for another extension.

Commission spokesman Itumeleng Lesofe said the merging parties had consented to a five business days’ extension. The new one would expire next Thursday.

"There are several outstanding issues that should be considered before the commission makes its recommendation to the Competition Tribunal. The merging parties are aware of these issues, and hence they have consented to the extension.

"However, five days may not be enough for the commission and the merging parties to adequately address the outstanding issues," Mr Lesofe said.

He said the commission could not disclose what these issues were, as the investigation had not concluded.

Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu) general secretary Katishi Masemola said he hoped that it was due to a detailed submission the union sent in. Mr Masemola said the Fawu and the parties were still hashing out agreements with regard to SAB’s Zenzele empowerment scheme.

Workers hold 40% of Zenzele, equivalent to 18.5-million shares in unlisted SAB. In terms of the original proposal, the SAB shares were to be converted into SABMiller shares when the scheme matures in 2020.

Mr Masemola wants the current scheme accelerated, with Fawu members paying off their outstanding loans and signing on for a new scheme.

In terms of an agreement made with Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel, a new empowerment scheme will be established after Zenzele matures and that is expected to include stakes for black industrialists.

Previous delays were related to public-interest concerns that Mr Patel raised.

But Mr Patel and AB InBev CEO Carlos Brito reached agreement last month on a range of issues including that a R1bn development fund for small farmers and enterprises be set up, and that there be no job losses in SA as a result of the merger.

With Reuters

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