Distell heads to Competition Tribunal over AB InBev, SAB merger

Local drinks company Distell is accusing global beer brewer AB InBev and SAB Miller of being in breach of their merger conditions, the Competition Tribunal said on Wednesday.

The matter is set to be heard by the Tribunal on Thursday and Friday.

The Tribunal conditionally approved the multi-billion dollar merger between AB InBev and SAB Miller in June 2016. Distell participated in the hearing at the time and made substantial submissions relating to conditions that were ultimately imposed on the merger, the Tribunal said in a statement.

"Distell recently approached the Competition Commission on the alleged breach of conditions alleging, among others, that the merged entity removed competitors' advertising material from outlets," the Tribunal said. 

The Commission found that the conditions had not been breached, it added.

According to the Tribunal, Distell is asking for the Commission's finding to be reviewed and set aside, and for a full investigation to be conducted.

"In the event that the Tribunal does not find that the conditions were breached, Distell is asking that the Tribunal provides guidance on the proper interpretation of the conditions," the Tribunal said.

The deal between SABMiller and AB InBev was set to create the largest beer producer in the world, Fin24 previously reported. AB InBev then became SAB’s holding company, and SAB would continue operating under its name in South Africa.

According to SAB, Distell's complaint is an attempt to restrict competition, and is unrelated to merger conditions. It says the complaints are baseless and should be dismissed.

The conditions imposed on the deal included the protection of any SA workers from retrenchment, diversifying certain aspects of SAB's business to accommodate small enterprises, and localising the company's product inputs.

SAB told Parliament in 2018 that the company's R1bn public interest commitments were aimed at both complying with the Competition Commission conditions and aimed at long-term job creation, growth and development in SA.