Opinion: Anheuser-Busch doles out beer money as regulators' scrutiny increases – MarketWatch

Anheuser-Busch InBev is throwing $4.5 billion at the U.S. beer industry in the span of a decade, and that should worry competitors. But it should make the sprawling global brewer nervous as well.

On May 15, Anheuser-Busch InBev SA BUD, -0.78%  announced that it planned to spend $500 million on U.S. brewing, production and distribution this year and another $2 billion through 2020. As the company points out, it has invested $2.5 billion here since 2011, but we’ll note that it’s also faced a growing amount of regulatory scrutiny with each step.

Craft brewers are concerned

Competing large-scale brewers and smaller regional and craft brewers have expressed concern in recent weeks after ABI purchased Wicked Weed of Asheville, N.C. Those fears were compounded when ABI announced that its South American hop farms wouldn’t be able to export any hops to non-ABI brewers in the U.S. because of low crop yields this season.

However, dating back to its purchase of Mexico’s Grupo Modelo and its Corona and Modelo beer brands in 2013, Anheuser-Busch InBev has been on some shaky ground stateside. The Department of Justice ruled that Anheuser-Busch InBev’s 2013 purchase of Grupo Modelo for $20.1 billion violated U.S. antitrust laws and forced ABI to sell the rights to Grupo Modelo’s most popular brands to Constellation Brands Inc. STZ, -0.84%   for $4.75 billion. When it purchased global brewing giant SABMiller for $108 billion last year, industry groups, including the Brewers Association craft beer industry group and the National Beer Wholesalers Association, testified before Congress about the potential U.S. implication of that sale.

The result was an antitrust decision that forced ABI to sell all of SABMiller’s Miller-branded assets to rival Molson Coors Brewing Co. TAP, -1.11%  for $12 billion. That decision also forbade Anheuser-Busch InBev from acquiring more breweries without federal

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