A&O and Freshfields lead on AB InBev disposal to Asahi

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer is continuing to pick up the lion’s share of the work on Anheuser-Busch InBev’s (AB InBev) mega-merger, with the brewer also turning to longstanding SABMiller adviser Hogan Lovells on its recent disposal deal.

In the most recent deal, Freshfields City partner Bruce Embley led on AB InBev’s agreement to sell SAB Miller’s former operations in Central and Eastern Europe to Japanese brewer Asahi for a total of €7.3bn. Corporate partner Natascha Doll and antitrust partner Andreas von Bonin also led from Hamburg and Brussels respectively. 

The magic circle firm has worked with AB InBev throughout its $103bn takeover of London-listed SABMiller, which completed earlier this winter.

Hogan Lovells partner Andrew Pearson also advised AB InBev on due diligence issues, despite having worked with AB InBev-acquired SABMiller for many years.

He is understood to have been brought in to advise AB InBev as a result of his close links to the SABMiller side of the business.

Pearson had worked with Linklaters senior partner Charlie Jacobs and partner Nick Rumsby on the deal itself, although the magic circle firm did not have a role on the latest disposal. It is understood Linklaters acted instead for one of the unsuccessful bidders of SABMiller’s Central and Eastern European business.

The successful bidder Asahi was advised by A&O City corporate partner Richard Hough, supported by commercial partner Jim Ford, antitrust partner Alasdair Balfour and debt partner Trevor Borthwick.

Tax partner Lydia Challen provided tax advice, while Sarah Henchoz was on hand for employment matters and partner Nick Wall led in Tokyo.

SABMiller formerly owned the businesses in Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania. AB InBev had made commitments to the European Commission to sell the assets as a result of its $103bn takeover of SABMiller.

The deal will close in the first half of 2017.

Background to the deal

AB InBev’s mega-merger with SABMiller is already one of the largest takeovers ever completed, incurring legal fees of £197m as of last August. The costs are expected to have risen steeply since then, owing to a number of associated disposals by AB InBev amid competition concerns.

One of these disposals was Asahi’s $2.55bn purchase of the Peroni, Grolsch and Meantime brands, as well as SABMiller’s $12bn (£7bn) divestment in its MillerCoors joint venture.

A&O also led for Asahi on its bid last February, with the two deals counting as the largest transaction ever undertaken by the Japanese brewer.