The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed an antitrust lawsuit against Belgian brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV (ABI) and Mexican brewer Grupo Modelo S.A.B. de C.V., seeking to enjoin ABI’s June 28, 2012, acquisition of Modelo. United States v. Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV, No. 13-127 (U.S. Dist. Ct., D.D.C., filed January 31, 2013). DOJ contends that the $20.1 billion deal, which would combine the largest and third largest beer companies in the United States, “would substantially lessen competition for beer in the United States as a whole and in 26 metropolitan areas across the United States, resulting in consumers paying more for beer and having fewer new products from which to choose.”

According to the complaint, Modelo is the only major beer company that has consistently resisted ABI’s annual price increases and has gained a majority share of some markets in California, New York and Texas by pursuing an aggressive marketing strategy with innovative products and lower prices. Together, the companies would control about 46 percent of the $80-billion annual U.S. beer market, and competitive pricing for beer would cease, claims DOJ. Efforts the companies apparently undertook to remedy the anticompetitive aspects of the agreement are outlined in the complaint; DOJ claims they are inadequate. DOJ seeks an order permanently enjoining the companies from carrying out the agreement and merger plan.

Among ABI’s brands are Busch®, Bud Light®, Stella Artois®, Goose Island®, Beck’s® and Michelob®. Modelo makes Modelo Especial®, Negra Modelo®, Victoria®, Pacifico®, and Corona Extra®. See DOJ Press Release, January 31, 2013.