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Turning Japanese: Freshfields and A&O act as Asahi makes €7.3bn play for five AB InBev beer brands

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Allen & Overy (A&O) and Hogan Lovells have all advised as Asahi Group Holdings buys a group of eastern European beer brands from Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev) for €7.3bn.

Japanese beer giant Asahi won a bidding process which included five potential buyers. Swiss investment firm Jacobs Holdings, Czech investment firm PPF, Bain Capital and Advent International were also vying for the brands.

The divestment, which follows the mega merger between SAB Miller and AB InBev, will see Asahi pick up brands including Pilsner Urquell, Tyskie, Lech, Dreher and Ursus in the largest deal in its history.

AB InBev returned to Freshfields for advice with a team led by corporate partner Bruce Embley. Hamburg based corporate partner Natascha Doll and Brussels antitrust partner Andreas von Bonin also acted on the deal.

SAB Miller’s preferred adviser Hogan Lovells worked on the due diligence for AB InBev with corporate partner Andrew Pearson taking the lead.

A&O corporate partner Richard Hough led the firm’s team advising Asahi which included competition partner Alasdair Balfour, the head of the firm’s London commercial group Jim Ford and the head of its global corporate lending group Trevor Borthwick. Partner Lydia Challen provided tax advice and partner Sarah Henchoz provided employment advice while partner Nick Wall led its Tokyo team.

Freshfields’ Embley told Legal Business: ‘It’s been a long process. This has been the final piece of the antitrust puzzle relating to the SAB Miller deal with a number of divestments before the deal closed. This is the one that it had committed to the European Commission that it would do after closure. There are quite different and interesting dynamics compared with your typical M&A deal.’

Freshfields has advised AB InBev through the merger and its related divestments while A&O advised Asahi on its bid to acquire SABMiller’s well-known European beer brands including Peroni and Grolsch worth €2.55bn. Hogan Lovells advised for SAB Miller.