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Notice is hereby given pursuant to the Antitrust Procedures and Penalties Act, 15 U.S.C. 16(b)-(h), that a proposed Final Judgment, Stipulation and Competitive Impact Statement have been filed with the United States District Court for the District of Columbia in United States of America v. Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV, et al., Civil Action No. 1:13-CV-00127. On January 31, 2013, the United States filed a Complaint alleging that the proposed acquisition by Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV (“ABI”) of the remaining interest in Grupo Modelo S.A.B. de C.V. (“Modelo”) would violate Section 7 of the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. 18. The proposed Final Judgment, filed on April 19, 2013, requires ABI and Modelo to divest Modelo's entire U.S. business to Constellation Brands, Inc. (“Constellation”), or if that transaction fails to consummate, to an alternative purchaser.
Copies of the Complaint, proposed Final Judgment and Competitive Impact Statement are available for inspection at the Department of Justice, Antitrust Division, Antitrust Documents Group, 450 Fifth Street NW., Suite 1010, Washington, DC 20530 (telephone: 202-514-2481), on the Department of Justice's Web site at http://www.justice.gov/atr, and at the Office of the Clerk of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. Copies of these materials may be obtained from the Antitrust Division upon request and payment of the copying fee set by Department of Justice regulations.
Public comment is invited within 60 days of the date of this notice. Such comments, including the name of the submitter, and responses thereto, will be posted on the U.S. Department of Justice, Antitrust Division's internet Web site, filed with the Court and, under certain circumstances, published in the Federal Register. Comments should be directed to James Tierney, Chief, Networks and Technology Enforcement Section, Antitrust Division, Department of Justice, 450 Fifth Street NW., Suite 7700, Washington, DC 20530, (telephone: 202-307-6200).Start Signature
Patricia A. Brink,
Director of Civil Enforcement.
United States District Court For the District of Columbia
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, U.S. Department of Justice, Antitrust Division, 450 Fifth Street NW., Suite 7100, Washington, DC 20530, Plaintiff, v. ANHEUSER-BUSCH InBEV SA/NV, Brouwerijplein 1, Leuven, Belgium 3000, and GRUPO MODELO S.A.B de C.V, Javier Barros Sierra No. 555 Piso 3, Col. Zedec, Santa Fe, Mexico D.F., C.P. 01210, Defendants.
Judge Richard W. Roberts
The United States of America, acting under the direction of the Attorney General of the United States, brings this civil action under the antitrust laws of the United States to enjoin the proposed acquisition by Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV (“ABI”) of the remainder of Grupo Modelo S.A.B. de C.V. (“Modelo”) that it does not already own, and to obtain equitable and other relief as appropriate. The United States alleges as follows:
1. Fundamental to free markets is the notion that competition works best and consumers benefit most when independent firms battle hard to win business from each other. In industries characterized by a small number of substantial competitors and high barriers to entry, further consolidation is especially problematic and antithetical to the nation's antitrust laws. The U.S. beer industry—which serves tens of millions of consumers at all levels of income—is highly concentrated with just two firms accounting for approximately 65% of all sales nationwide. The transaction that is the subject of this Complaint threatens competition by combining the largest and third-largest brewers of beer sold in the United States. The United States therefore seeks to enjoin this acquisition and prevent a serious violation of Section 7 of the Clayton Act.
2. Today, Modelo aggressively competes head-to-head with ABI in the United States. That competition has resulted in lower prices and product innovations that have benefited consumers across the country. The proposed acquisition would eliminate this competition by further concentrating the beer industry, enhancing ABI's market power, and facilitating coordinated pricing between ABI and the next largest brewer, MillerCoors, LLC. The approximate market shares of U.S. beer sales, by dollars, are illustrated below:Start Printed Page 30401
3. Defendants' combined national share actually understates the effect that eliminating Modelo would have on competition in the beer industry, both because Modelo's share is substantially higher in many local areas than its national share, and because of the interdependent pricing dynamic that already exists between the largest brewers. As the two largest brewers, ABI and MillerCoors often find it more profitable to follow each other's prices than to compete aggressively for market share by cutting price. Among other things, ABI typically initiates annual price increases in various markets with the expectation that MillerCoors' prices will follow. And they frequently do.
4. In contrast, Modelo has resisted ABI-led price hikes. Modelo's pricing strategy—“The Momentum Plan”—seeks to narrow the “price gap” between Modelo beers and lower-priced premium domestic brands, such as Bud and Bud Light. ABI internal documents acknowledge that Modelo has put “increasing pressure” on ABI by pursuing a competitive strategy directly at odds with ABI's well-established practice of leading prices upward.
5. Because Modelo prices have not closely followed ABI's price increases, ABI and MillerCoors have been forced to offer lower prices and discounts for their brands to discourage consumers from “trad[ing] up” to Modelo brands. If ABI were to acquire the remainder of Modelo, this competitive constraint on ABI's and MillerCoors' ability to raise their prices would be eliminated.
6. The acquisition would also eliminate the substantial head-to-head competition that currently exists between ABI and Modelo. The loss of this head-to-head competition would enhance the ability of ABI to unilaterally raise the prices of the brands that it would own post-acquisition, and diminish ABI's incentive to innovate with respect to new brands, products, and packaging.
7. Accordingly, ABI's acquisition of the remainder of Modelo would likely substantially lessen competition and is therefore illegal under Section 7 of the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. 18.
8. For no substantial business reason other than to avoid liability under the antitrust laws, ABI has entered into an additional transaction contingent on the approval of its acquisition of the remainder of Modelo. Specifically, ABI has agreed to sell Modelo's existing 50% interest in Crown Imports LLC (“Crown”)  —which currently imports Modelo beer into the United States—to Crown's other owner, Constellation Brands, Inc. (“Constellation”). ABI and Constellation have also negotiated a proposed Amended and Restated Importer Agreement (the “supply agreement”), giving Constellation the exclusive right to import Modelo beer into the United States for ten years. Constellation, however, would acquire no Modelo brands or brewing facilities under this arrangement—it remains simply an importer, required to depend on ABI for its supply of Modelo-branded beer. At the end of the ten-year period, ABI could unilaterally terminate its agreement with Constellation, thereby giving ABI full control of all aspects of the importation, sale, and distribution of Modelo brands in the United States.
9. The sale of Modelo's 50% interest in Crown to Constellation is designed predominantly to help ABI win antitrust approval for its acquisition of Modelo, creating a façade of competition between ABI and its importer. In reality, Defendants' proposed “remedy” eliminates from the market Modelo—a particularly aggressive competitor—and replaces it with an entity wholly dependent on ABI. As Crown's CEO wrote to his employees after the acquisition was announced: “Our #1 competitor will now be our supplier . . . it is not currently or will not, going forward, be `business as usual.’ ” The deficiencies of the “remedy” are apparent from the illustrations of the pre- and post-transaction chains of supply below, demonstrating how the “remedy” transforms horizontal competition into vertical dependency:Start Printed Page 30402
10. Constellation has already shown through its participation in the Crown joint venture that it does not share Modelo's incentive to thwart ABI's price leadership. In fact, Constellation consistently has urged following ABI's price leadership. Given that Constellation was inclined to follow ABI's price leadership before the acquisition, it is unlikely to reverse course after—when it would be fully dependent on ABI for its supply of beer, and will effectively be ABI's business partner. In addition, Constellation would need to preserve a strong relationship with ABI to encourage ABI from exercising its option to terminate the agreement after 10 years.
11. For these reasons, as alleged more specifically below, the proposed acquisition, if consummated, would likely substantially lessen competition in violation of Section 7 of the Clayton Act. The likely anticompetitive effects of the proposed acquisition would not be prevented or remedied by the sale of Modelo's existing interest in Crown to Constellation and the supply agreement between ABI and Constellation.
II. Jurisdiction, Venue, and Interstate Commerce
12. The United States brings this action under Section 15 of the Clayton Act, as amended, 15 U.S.C. 25, to prevent and restrain Defendants ABI and Modelo from violating Section 7 of the Clayton Act, as amended, 15 U.S.C. 18.
15. Defendants are engaged in, and their activities substantially affect, interstate commerce. ABI and Modelo annually brew several billion dollars worth of beer, which is then advertised and sold throughout the United States.
16. This Court has personal jurisdiction over each Defendant. Modelo has consented to personal jurisdiction in this judicial district. ABI is found and transacts business in this District through its wholly-owned United States subsidiaries, over which it exercises control.
III. The Defendants and the Transactions
17. ABI is a corporation organized and existing under the laws of Belgium, with headquarters in Leuven, Belgium. ABI is the largest brewer and marketer of beer sold in the United States. ABI owns and operates 125 breweries worldwide, including 12 in the United States. It owns more than 200 beer brands, including Bud Light, the number one brand in the United States, and other popular brands such as Budweiser, Busch, Michelob, Natural Light, Stella Artois, Goose Island, and Beck's.
18. Modelo is a corporation organized and existing under the laws of Mexico, with headquarters in Mexico City, Mexico. Modelo is the third-largest brewer of beer sold in the United States. Modelo's Corona Extra brand is the top-selling import in the United States. Its other popular brands sold in the United States include Corona Light, Modelo Especial, Negra Modelo, Victoria, and Pacifico.
19. ABI currently holds a 35.3% direct interest in Modelo, and a 23.3% direct interest in Modelo's operating subsidiary Diblo, S.A. de C.V. ABI's current part-ownership of Modelo gives ABI certain minority voting rights and the right to appoint nine members of Modelo's 19-member Board of Directors. However, as ABI stated in its most recent annual report, ABI does “not have voting or other effective control of . . . Grupo Modelo.”
20. ABI and Modelo executives agree that there is currently vigorous competition between the ABI and Modelo brands in the United States. Indeed, firewalls are in place to ensure that the ABI members of Modelo's Board do not become privy to information about the pricing, marketing, or distribution of Modelo brands in the United States.
21. Modelo executives run its day-to-day business, including Modelo's relationship and interaction with its U.S. importer, Crown. Modelo owns half of Crown and may exercise an option at the end of 2013, to acquire in 2016, the half of Crown it does not already own. Today, Modelo must approve Crown's general pricing parameters, changes in strategic direction, borrowing activities, and capital investment above certain thresholds. Modelo also sets the global strategic themes for the brands it owns. Essentially, Crown is a group of employees who report to Crown's owners: Modelo and Constellation.
22. The acquisition gives complete control of Modelo to ABI, and gives ABI full access to competitively sensitive information about the sale of the Modelo brands in the United States—access that ABI does not currently enjoy. ABI presently has no day-to-day role in Modelo's United States business and is walled off from strategic discussions regarding Modelo sales in the United States.
23. On June 28, 2012, ABI agreed to purchase the remaining equity interest from Modelo's owners, thereby obtaining full ownership and control of Modelo, for about $20.1 billion.
24. As noted above, in an effective acknowledgement that the acquisition of Modelo raises significant competitive concerns, Defendants simultaneously entered into another transaction in an attempt to “remedy” the competitive harm caused by ABI's acquisition of the remainder of Modelo: ABI has agreed to sell Modelo's existing 50% interest in Crown to Constellation, so that Crown, previously a joint-venture between Modelo and Constellation, would become wholly owned by Constellation. As part of this strategy, ABI and Constellation have negotiated a supply agreement giving Constellation the exclusive right to import Modelo beer into the United States for ten years. These transactions are contingent on the closing of ABI's acquisition of Modelo.
IV. The Relevant Market
A. Description of the Product
25. “Beer” is comprised of a wide variety of brands of alcoholic beverages usually made from a malted cereal grain, flavored with hops, and brewed via a process of fermentation. Beer is substantially differentiated from other alcoholic beverages by taste, quality, alcohol content, image, and price.
26. In addition to brewing, beer producers typically also sell, market, and develop multiple brands. Marketing and brand building take various forms including sports sponsorships, print advertising, national television campaigns, and increasingly, online marketing. For example, Modelo has recently invested in “more national advertising [and] more national sports” in order to “build the equity of [its] brands.”
27. Most brewers use distributors to merchandise, sell, and deliver beer to retailers. Those end accounts are primarily grocery stores, large retailers such as Target and Walmart, and convenience stores, liquor stores, restaurants, and bars which, in turn, sell beer to the consumer. Beer brewed in foreign countries may be sold to an importer, which then arranges for distribution to retailers.
28. ABI groups beer into four segments: Sub-premium, premium, premium plus, and high-end. The sub-premium segment, also referred to as the value segment, generally consists of lager beers, such as Natural and Keystone branded beer, and some ales and malt liquors, which are priced lower than premium beers, made from less expensive ingredients and are generally perceived as being of lower Start Printed Page 30403quality than premium beers. The premium segment generally consists of medium-priced American lager beers, such as ABI's Budweiser, and the Miller and Coors brand families, including the “light” varieties. The premium plus segment consists largely of American beers that are priced somewhat higher than premium beers, made from more expensive ingredients and are generally perceived to be of superior quality. Examples of beers in the premium plus category include Bud Light Lime, Bud Light Platinum, Bud Light Lime-a-Rita and Michelob Ultra.
29. The high-end category includes craft beers, which are often produced in small-scale breweries, and imported beers. High-end beers sell at a wide variety of price points, most of which are higher than premium and premium plus beers. The high-end segment includes craft beers such as Dogfish Head, Flying Dog, and also imported beers, the best selling of which is Modelo's Corona. ABI also owns high-end beers including Stella Artois and Goose Island. Brewers with a broad portfolio of brands, such as ABI, seek to maintain “price gaps” between each segment. For example, premium beer is priced above sub-premium beer, but below premium plus beer.
30. Beers compete with one another across segments. Indeed, ABI and Modelo brands are in regular competition with one another. For example, Modelo, acting through Crown in the United States, usually selects “[d]omestic premium” beer, namely, ABI's Bud Light, as its benchmark for its own brands' pricing.
B. Relevant Product Market
31. Beer is a relevant product market and line of commerce under Section 7 of the Clayton Act. Other alcoholic beverages, such as wine and distilled spirits, are not sufficiently substitutable to discipline at least a small but significant and nontransitory increase in the price of beer, and relatively few consumers would substantially reduce their beer purchases in the event of such a price increase. Therefore, a hypothetical monopolist producer of beer likely would increase its prices by at least a small but significant and non-transitory amount.
C. Relevant Geographic Market
32. The 26 local markets, defined by Metropolitan Statistical Areas (“MSAs”), identified in Appendix A, are relevant geographic markets for antitrust purposes. Each of these local markets currently benefits from head-to-head competition between ABI and Modelo, and in each the acquisition would likely substantially lessen competition.
33. The relevant geographic markets for analyzing the effects of this acquisition are best defined by the locations of the customers who purchase beer, rather than by the locations of breweries. Brewers develop pricing and promotional strategies based on an assessment of local demand for their beer, local competitive conditions, and local brand strength. Thus, the price for a brand of beer can vary by local market.
34. Brewers are able to price differently in different locations, in part, because arbitrage across local markets is unlikely to occur. Consumers buy beer near their homes and typically do not travel to other areas to buy beer when prices rise. Also, distributors' contracts with brewers and their importers contain territorial limits and prohibit distributors from reselling beer outside their territories. In addition, each state has different laws and regulations regarding beer distribution and sales that would make arbitrage difficult.
35. Accordingly, a hypothetical monopolist of beer sold into each of the local markets identified in Appendix A would likely increase its prices in that local market by at least a small but significant and non-transitory amount.
36. Therefore, the MSAs identified in Appendix A are relevant geographic markets and “sections of the country” within the meaning of Section 7 of the Clayton Act.
37. There is also competition between brewers on a national level that affects local markets throughout the United States. Decisions about beer brewing, marketing, and brand building typically take place on a national level. In addition, most beer advertising is on national television, and brewers commonly compete for national retail accounts. General pricing strategy also typically originates at a national level. A hypothetical monopolist of beer sold in the United States would likely increase its prices by at least a small but significant and non-transitory amount. Accordingly, the United States is a relevant geographic market under Section 7 of the Clayton Act.
V. ABI'S Proposed Acquisition Is Likely To Result in Anticompetitive Effects
A. The Relevant Markets are Highly Concentrated and the Merger Triggers a Presumption of Illegality in Each Relevant Market
38. The relevant markets are highly concentrated and would become significantly more concentrated as a result of the proposed acquisition.
39. ABI is the largest brewer of beer sold in the United States. MillerCoors is the second-largest brewer of beer sold in the United States. MillerCoors owns the Miller and Coors brands and also many smaller brands including Blue Moon and Keystone Light. Modelo is the third-largest brewer of beer sold in the United States, with annual U.S. sales of $2.47 billion, 7% market share nationally, and a market share that is nearly 20% in some local markets. Modelo owns the Corona, Modelo, Pacifico, and Victoria brands. The remaining sales of beer in the U.S. are divided among Heineken and fringe competitors, including many craft brewers, which the Defendants characterize as being “fragmented . . . small player[s].”
40. Concentration in relevant markets is typically measured by the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index (“HHI”). Market concentration is often one useful indicator of the level of competitive vigor in a market and the likely competitive effects of a merger. The more concentrated a market, and the more a transaction would increase concentration in a market, the more likely it is that a transaction would result in a meaningful reduction in competition. Markets in which the HHI is in excess of 2,500 points are considered highly concentrated.
41. The beer industry in the United States is highly concentrated and would become substantially more so as a result of this acquisition. Market share estimates demonstrate that in 20 of the 26 local geographic markets identified in Appendix A, the post-acquisition HHI exceeds 2,500 points, in one market is as high as 4,886 points, and there is an increase in the HHI  of at least 472 points in each of those 20 markets. In six of the local geographic markets, the post-merger HHI is at least 1,822, with an increase of the HHI of at least 387 points, and in each of those six markets the parties combined market share is greater than 30%.
42. In the United States, the Defendants will have a combined Start Printed Page 30404market share of approximately 46% post-transaction. The post-transaction HHI of the United States beer market will be greater than 2800, with an increase in the HHI of 566.
43. The market concentration measures, coupled with the significant increases in concentration, described above, demonstrate that the acquisition is presumed to be anticompetitive.
B. Beer Prices in the United States Today are Largely Determined by the Strategic Interactions of ABI, MillerCoors, and Modelo
1. ABI's Price Leadership
44. ABI and MillerCoors typically announce annual price increases in late summer for execution in early fall. The increases vary by region, but typically cover a broad range of beer brands and packs. In most local markets, ABI is the market share leader and issues its price announcement first, purposely making its price increases transparent to the market so its competitors will get in line. In the past several years, MillerCoors has followed ABI's price increases to a significant degree.
45. The specifics of ABI's pricing strategy are governed by its “Conduct Plan,” a strategic plan for pricing in the United States that reads like a how-to manual for successful price coordination. The goals of the Conduct Plan include: “yielding the highest level of followership in the short-term” and “improving competitor conduct over the long-term.”
46. ABI's Conduct Plan emphasizes the importance of being “Transparent—so competitors can clearly see the plan;” “Simple—so competitors can understand the plan;” “Consistent—so competitors can predict the plan;” and “Targeted—consider competition's structure.” By pursuing these goals, ABI seeks to “dictate consistent and transparent competitive response.” As one ABI executive wrote, a “Front Line Driven Plan sends Clear Signal to Competition and Sets up well for potential conduct plan response.” According to ABI, its Conduct Plan “increases the probability of [ABI] sustaining a price increase.”
47. The proposed merger would likely increase the ability of ABI and the remaining beer firms to coordinate by eliminating an independent Modelo—which has increasingly inhibited ABI's price leadership—from the market.
2. Modelo Has Constrained ABI's Ability to Lead Prices Higher
48. In the past several years, Modelo, acting through Crown, has disrupted ABI's pricing strategy by declining to match many of the price increases that were led by ABI and frequently joined by MillerCoors.
49. In or around 2008, Crown implemented its “Momentum Plan” with Modelo's enthusiastic support. The Momentum Plan is specifically designed to grow Modelo's market share by shrinking the price gaps between brands owned by Modelo and domestic premium brands. By maintaining steady pricing while the prices of premium beer continues to rise, Modelo has narrowed the price gap between its beers and ABI's premium beers, encouraging consumers to trade up to Modelo brands. These narrowed price gaps frustrate ABI and MillerCoors because they result in Modelo gaining market share at their expense.
50. Under the Momentum Plan, Modelo brand prices essentially remained flat despite price increases from ABI and other competitors, allowing Modelo brands to achieve their targeted price gaps to premium beers in various markets. After Modelo implemented its price gap strategy, Modelo brands experienced market share growth.
51. Because of the Momentum Plan, prices on the Modelo brands have increased more slowly than ABI has increased premium segment prices. Thus, as ABI has observed, in recent years, the “gap between Premium and High End has been reducing . . . due to non [high-end] increases.” Over the same time period, the high-end segment has been gaining market share at the expense of ABI's and MillerCoors' premium domestic brands.
52. In internal strategy documents, ABI has repeatedly complained about pressure resulting from price competition with the Modelo brands: “Recent price actions delivered expected Trade up from Sub Premium, however it created additional share pressure from volume shifting to High End where we under-index;” “Consumers switching to High End accelerated by price gap compression;” “While relative Price to MC [MillerCoors] has remained stable the lack of Price increase in Corona is increasing pressure in Premium.” An ABI presentation from November 2011 stated that ABI's strategy was “Short-Term : We must slow the volume trend of High End Segment and cannot let the industry transform.” Owning the Modelo brands will enable ABI to implement that strategy.
53. The competition that Modelo has created by not following ABI price increases has constrained ABI's ability to raise prices and forced ABI to become more competitive by offering innovative brands and packages to limit its share losses and to attract customers.
54. Competition between the ABI and Modelo brands has become increasingly intense throughout the country, particularly in areas with large Latino populations. As the country's Latino population is forecasted to grow over time, ABI anticipates even more rigorous competition with Modelo. Here are some examples of how the Modelo brands have disciplined the pricing of the market leaders.
55. Modelo, acting through Crown, has not followed ABI-led price increases in local markets in California. Because of the aggressive pricing of the Modelo brands, ABI's Bud and Bud Light brands have reported “[h]eavy share losses” to Modelo's Corona and Modelo Especial.
56. Consumers in California markets have been the beneficiaries of Modelo's aggressive pricing. ABI rescinded a planned September 2010 price increase because of the share growth of Modelo's Corona brand. ABI also considered launching a new line, “Michelob Especial,”—a Modelo brand is “Modelo Especial”—targeted at California's Latino community. ABI recognized that Corona's strength in California meant that “innovation [is] required.” Nonetheless, Modelo continued “eating [Budweiser's] lunch” in California to the point where ABI's Vice President of Sales observed that “California is a burning platform” for ABI, which was “losing share” because of “price compression” between ABI and Corona.
57. In 2012, ABI's concern about losing market share to Modelo in California caused a full-blown price war. ABI implemented “aggressive price reductions . . .” that were seen as “specifically targeting Corona and Modelo.” These aggressive discounts appear to have been taken in support of ABI's expressed desire to discipline Modelo's aggressive pricing with the ultimate goal of “driv[ing] them to go up” in price. Both MillerCoors and Modelo followed ABI's price decrease, and ABI responded by dropping its price even further to stay competitive.
58. Competition between the ABI and Modelo brands in local markets in Texas is also intense. Beginning in or about 2010, some Modelo brands began to be priced competitively with ABI's Bud Light, the leading domestic brand throughout the state. Modelo brands also benefited from price promotions and regional advertising. By 2011, Modelo had begun gaining market share at ABI's expense. ABI recognized Start Printed Page 30405Modelo's aggressive price strategy as an issue contributing to its market share loss.
59. Ultimately, aggressive pricing on some Modelo brands forced ABI to lower its prices in local Texas markets, and adjust its marketing strategy to better respond to competition from the Modelo brands. According to an ABI Regional Vice President of Sales, ABI set “pricing, packaging and retail activity targets to address [Modelo's] Especial” brand. In both Houston and San Antonio, ABI also lowered the price of its Bud Light Lime brand to match Modelo Especial price moves.
c. New York City
60. In the summer of 2011, Modelo, acting through Crown, sought to narrow the gap in price between its brands and those of domestic premiums, including the ABI brands in New York City. ABI became concerned that “price compression on Premiums by imports” would cause premium domestic customers to trade up to the import segment. ABI's Vice President of Sales observed that the price moves on Modelo's Corona brand, and corresponding reductions by MillerCoors and Heineken, meant that ABI would “need to respond in some fashion,” and that its planned price increase was “in jeopardy.” ABI ultimately chose to respond by delaying a planned price increase to “limit the impact of price compression on our premiums as a result of the Corona . . . deeper discount.”
C. The Elimination of Modelo Would Likely Result in Higher Coordinated Pricing by ABI and MillerCoors
61. Competition spurred by Modelo has benefitted consumers through lower beer prices and increased innovation. It has also thwarted ABI's vision of leading industry prices upward with MillerCoors and others following. As one ABI executive stated in June 2011, “[t]he impact of Crown Imports not increasing price has a significant influence on our volume and share. The case could be made that Crown's lack of increases has a bigger influence on our elasticity than MillerCoors does.” ABI's acquisition of full ownership and control of Modelo's brands and brewing assets will facilitate future pricing coordination.
D. The Loss of Head-to-Head Competition Between ABI and Modelo Would Likely Result in Higher Prices on ABI-Owned Brands
62. ABI is intent on moderating price competition. As it has explained internally: “We must defend from value-destroying pricing by:  Ensuring competition does not believe they can take share through pricing[,] [and]  Building discipline in our teams to prevent unintended initiation or acceleration of value-destroying actions.” ABI documents show that it is increasingly worried about the threat of high-end brands, such as Modelo's, constraining its ability to increase premium and sub-premium pricing. In general, ABI, as the price leader, would prefer a market not characterized by aggressive pricing actions to take share because “[t]aking market share this way is unsustainable and results in lower total industry profitability which damages all players long-term.”
63. ABI would have strong incentives to raise the prices of its beers were it to acquire Modelo. First, lifting the price of Modelo beers would allow ABI to further increase the prices of its existing brands across all beer segments. Second, as the market leader in the premium and premium-plus segments, and as a brewer with an approximate overall national share of approximately 46% of beer sales post-acquisition, coupled with its newly expanded portfolio of brands, ABI stands to recapture a significant portion of any sales lost due to such a price increase, because a significant percentage of those lost sales will go to other ABI-owned brands.
64. Therefore, ABI likely would unilaterally raise prices on the brands of beer that it owns as a result of the acquisition.
E. The Loss of Head-to-Head Competition Between ABI and Modelo Will Harm Consumers Through Reduced New Product Innovation and Product Variety
65. Modelo's growth in the United States has repeatedly spurred product innovation by ABI. In 2011, ABI decided to “Target Mexican imports” and began planning three related ways of doing so. First, ABI would acquire the U.S. sales rights to Presidente beer, the number one beer in Central America, and greatly expand Presidente's distribution in the United States. Second, ABI would acquire a “Southern US or Mexican craft brand,” and use it to compete against Mexican imports. Finally, ABI would license trademarks to another tropical-style beer, in a project that the responsible ABI manager described as a “Corona killer.”
66. ABI's Bud Light Lime, launched in 2008, was also targeted at Corona (commonly served with a slice of lime), going so far as to mimic Corona's distinctive clear bottle. As one Modelo executive noted after watching a commercial for Bud Light Lime, the product was “invading aggressively and directly the Corona territory.” Another executive commented that the commercial itself was “[v]ery similar” to one Modelo, through Crown, was developing at the same time.
67. The proposed acquisition's harmful effect on product innovation is already evident. If ABI were to acquire Modelo and enter into the supply agreement with Constellation, ABI would be forbidden from launching a “Mexican-style Beer” in the United States. Further, ABI would no longer have the same incentives to introduce new brands to take market share from the Modelo brands.
F. Summary of Competitive Harm From ABI's Acquisition of the Remainder of Modelo
68. The significant increase in market concentration that the proposed acquisition would produce in the relevant markets, combined with the loss of head-to-head competition between ABI and Modelo, is likely to result in unilateral price increases by ABI and to facilitate coordinated pricing between ABI and remaining market participants.
VI. Absence of Countervailing Factors
69. New entry and expansion by existing competitors are unlikely to prevent or remedy the acquisition's likely anticompetitive effects. Barriers to entry and expansion within each of these harmed markets include: (i) The substantial time and expense required to build a brand reputation; (ii) the substantial sunk costs for promotional and advertising activity needed to secure the distribution and placement of a new entrant's beer products in retail outlets; (iii) the difficulty of securing shelf-space in retail outlets; (iv) the time and cost of building new breweries and other facilities; and (v) the time and cost of developing a network of beer distributors and delivery routes.
70. Although ABI asserts that the acquisition would produce efficiencies, it cannot demonstrate acquisition-specific and cognizable efficiencies that would be passed-through to U.S. consumers, of sufficient size to offset the acquisition's significant anticompetitive effects.
VII. Defendants' Proffered “Remedy” Does Not Prevent the Anticompetitive Effect of ABI's Acquisition of Modelo
71. In light of the high market concentration, and substantial likelihood of anticompetitive effects, ABI's acquisition of the remainder of Modelo is illegal. Defendants thus evidently structured their transactions Start Printed Page 30406with a purported “remedy” in mind: the sale of Modelo's interest in Crown to Constellation, coupled with a supply agreement that gives Constellation the right to import Modelo beer into the United States. This proposal is inadequate to remedy Defendants' violation of Section 7 of the Clayton Act.
A. Constellation Has Not Shown Modelo and Crown's Past Willingness To Resist ABI's “Leader-Follower” Industry Plan
72. Constellation has not shown Crown and Modelo's past willingness to thwart ABI's price leadership. While Modelo supported narrowing the gap between the prices of its brands and those of ABI premium brands, Constellation's executives have sought to follow ABI's pricing lead. In August 2011, Constellation's Managing Director wrote to Crown's CEO: “Since ABI has already announced an October general price increase I was wondering if you are considering price increases for the Modelo portfolio? . . .. From a positioning and image perspective I believe it would be a mistake to allow the gaps to be narrowed . . . I think ABI's announcement gives you the opportunity to increase profitability without having to sacrifice significant volume.” Similarly, in December of 2011, Constellation's CFO wrote to his counterpart at Crown that he thought price increases on the Modelo brands were viable “if domestics [i.e. Bud and Bud Light] keep going up” but worried that “Modelo gets a vote as well.” And in June of 2012, a Crown executive stated that Constellation's plan for annual price increases “put at risk the relative success” of the Momentum Plan.
73. Crown executives have recognized the differing incentives, as it relates to pricing, of their two owners. As one Crown executive observed in a March 2011 email, “Modelo has a higher interest in building volume so that they can cover manufacturing costs, gain manufacturing profits and build share as the brand owners.” Constellation, however, “is interested primarily in the financial return on a short-term or at the most on a mid-term basis.”
74. Post-transaction, Constellation would no longer be so constrained. Even if Crown's own executives wanted to continue an aggressive pricing strategy, they would be required to answer to Crown's new sole owner—Constellation.
75. Crown executives were concerned about what would happen if Constellation gained complete control of Crown. Crown's CEO wrote to Constellation's CEO after Defendants' proposed “remedy” was announced: “the Crown team  is extremely anxious about this change in ownership. This is in no small part the result of Constellation's actions over the term of the joint venture to limit investment in the business in the areas of manpower and marketing.” Constellation's CEO responded internally: “[Q]uite something. I see a management issue brewing.” In another email, Crown's CEO wrote to his employees that Constellation had been “consistently non supportive of the business through Crown's history . . . seeking to drive profits at all costs.”
76. Crown's fears appear well-grounded. In 2010, Modelo sued Constellation for breach of fiduciary duty, after Constellation had refused to invest in marketing the Modelo brands. In its Complaint, Modelo alleged “Constellation  knew that [Crown] management's plan was in Crown's best interests, but they blocked it anyway in an effort to secure unwarranted benefits for Constellation.”
77. Post-acquisition, Constellation would not need to ask Modelo for permission to follow ABI's price-leadership. Instead, Constellation would be free to follow ABI's lead. Moreover, ABI and Constellation will have every incentive to act together on pricing because of the vast profits each would stand to make if beer prices were to increase.
78. The contingent supply relationship between ABI and Constellation would also facilitate joint pricing between the two companies. Post-acquisition, there would be day-to-day interaction between ABI and Constellation on matters such as volume, packaging, transportation of product, and new product innovation. ABI and Constellation would have countless opportunities that could creatively be exploited, and that no one could predict or control, to allow ABI to reward Constellation (or refrain from punishing Constellation) in exchange for Constellation raising the price of the Modelo brands. The lucrative supply agreement from which Constellation seeks to gain billions of dollars in profits itself incentivizes Constellation to keep ABI happy to avoid terminating Constellation's rights in ten years.
79. ABI and Constellation are more likely to decide on mutually profitable pricing. Unlike ABI and Modelo, which are horizontal competitors, Constellation would be a mere participant in ABI's supply chain under the proposed arrangement.
80. ABI and Modelo have sought to avoid acting together on matters of competitive significance in the relevant markets in the U.S. Accordingly, they have built in several firewalls—including ABI's exclusion from sensitive portions of Modelo board meetings concerning the sale of Modelo beer in the U.S.—to insulate ABI from Modelo's U.S. business. Post-acquisition, those firewalls would be gone.
81. The loss of Modelo also, by itself, facilitates interdependent pricing. Today, ABI would need to reach agreement with both Modelo and Constellation to ensure that pricing for the Modelo brands followed ABI's lead. After the proposed transactions, working together on price would be easier because only Constellation would need to follow or agree with ABI.
B. Constellation Will Not Be an Independent Firm Capable of Restoring Head-To-Head Competition Between ABI and Modelo
82. Even if Constellation wanted to act at odds with ABI post-transaction, it would be unlikely to do so. Constellation will own no brands or brewing or bottling assets of its own. It would be dependent on ABI for its supply. Thus, Defendants' proposed remedy puts Constellation in a considerably weaker competitive position compared to Modelo, which owns both brands and breweries.
83. ABI could terminate the contingent supply agreement at any time. And if ABI is displeased with Constellation's strategy in the United States, it might simply withhold or delay supply to punish Constellation.
84. The supply agreement may also be renegotiated at any time during the 10-year period. Thus, it provides no guaranteed protection for consumers that any of its terms will be followed if ABI is able to secure antitrust approval for this acquisition.
VIII. Violations Alleged
85. The United States incorporates the allegations of paragraphs 1 through 84 above as if set forth fully herein.
Violation of Clayton Act § 7, 15 U.S.C. 18
ABI Agreement To Acquire Remainder of Modelo
86. The proposed acquisition of the remainder of Modelo by ABI would likely substantially lessen competition—even after Defendants' proposed “remedy”—in the relevant markets, in violation of Section 7 of the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. 18. The transactions would have the following anticompetitive effects, among others:
(a) Eliminating Modelo as a substantial, independent, and Start Printed Page 30407competitive force in the relevant markets, creating a combined firm with reduced incentives to lower price or increase innovation or quality;
(b) Competition generally in the relevant markets would likely be substantially lessened;
(c) Prices of beer would likely increase to levels above those that would prevail absent the transaction, forcing millions of consumers in the United States to pay higher prices;
(d) Quality and innovation would likely be less than levels that would prevail absent the transaction;
(e) The acquisition would likely promote and facilitate pricing coordination in the relevant markets; and
(f) The acquisition would provide ABI with a greater incentive and ability to increase its pricing unilaterally.
IX. Request for Relief
87. The United States requests that:
(a) The proposed acquisition be adjudged to violate Section 7 of the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. 18;
(b) The Defendants be permanently enjoined and restrained from carrying out the Agreement and Plan of Merger dated June 28, 2012, and the “Transaction Agreement” dated June 28, 2012, between Modelo, Diblo, and ABI, or from entering into or carrying out any agreement, understanding, or plan by which ABI would acquire the remaining interest in Modelo, its stock, or any of its assets;
(c) The United States be awarded costs of this action; and
(d) The United States be awarded such other relief as the Court may deem just and proper.
Dated this 31st day of January 2013.
FOR PLAINTIFF UNITED STATES:
WILLIAM J. BAER (D.C. BAR # 324723),
Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust.
RENATA B. HESSE (D.C. BAR # 466107),
Deputy Assistant Attorney General.
PATRICIA A. BRINK,
Director of Civil Enforcement.
MARK W. RYAN (D.C. BAR # 359098),
Director of Litigation.
JOSEPH J. MATELIS (D.C. BAR # 462199),
Chief Counsel for Innovation.
JAMES J. TIERNEY (D.C. BAR # 434610),
N. SCOTT SACKS (D.C. BAR # 913087)
Acting Assistant Chief.
NETWORKS & TECHNOLOGY
MICHELLE R. SELTZER* (D.C. BAR # 475482),
Antitrust Division, U.S. Department of Justice, 450 Fifth Street NW., Suite 4100, Washington, DC 20530, Telephone: (202) 353-3865, Facsimile: (202) 307-5802, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
TRAVIS R. CHAPMAN
JOHN C. FILIPPINI (DC BAR # 165159)
DAVID Z. GRINGER
DANIELLE G. HAUCK
DAVID C. KELLY
ANURAG MAHESHWARY (DC BAR # 490535)
LOWELL STERN (DC BAR # 440487)
MARY STRIMEL(DC BAR # 455303)
RYAN STRUVE (DC BAR # 495406)
Attorneys for the United States
*Attorney of Record
Appendix AStart Printed Page 30408
United States District Court for the District of Columbia
United States of America, Plaintiff, v. Anheuser-Busch InBEV SA/NV, et al., Defendants.
Judge Richard W. Roberts
Competitive Impact Statement
Pursuant to Section 2(b) of the Antitrust Procedures and Penalties Act (“APPA” or “Tunney Act”), 15 U.S.C. 16(b)-(h), Plaintiff United States of America (“United States”) files this Competitive Impact Statement relating to the proposed Final Judgment submitted on April 19, 2013, for entry in this civil antitrust proceeding.
I. Nature and Purpose of the Proceeding
On June 28, 2012, Defendant Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV (“ABI”) agreed to purchase the remaining equity interest in Defendant Grupo Modelo, S.A.B. de C.V. (“Modelo”) for approximately $20.1 billion. The United Start Printed Page 30409States filed a civil antitrust Complaint against ABI and Modelo on January 31, 2013, seeking to enjoin the proposed acquisition. The Complaint alleges that the likely effect of this acquisition would be to lessen competition substantially for beer in the United States and specifically in twenty-six local markets in violation of Section 7 of the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. 18. This loss of competition would likely result in higher beer prices and less innovation.
On April 19, 2013, the United States filed an Explanation of Consent Decree Procedures, which included a Stipulation and Order and a proposed Final Judgment as exhibits that are collectively designed to eliminate the anticompetitive effects that the acquisition would have otherwise caused. The proposed Final Judgment, which is explained more fully below, will accomplish the complete divestiture of Modelo's U.S. business to Modelo's current joint venture partner, Constellation Brands, Inc. (“Constellation”), or, if that transaction fails to close, to another acquirer capable of replacing the competition that Modelo currently brings to the United States market. This structural fix will maintain Modelo Brand Beers  as independent competitors to ABI's flagship brands in the United States and will eliminate the existing entanglements between ABI and Modelo vis-à-vis the beer market in the United States.
Specifically, under the proposed Final Judgment, ABI is required to divest and/or license to Constellation (or to an alternative purchaser if the sale to Constellation for some reason does not close) certain tangible and intangible assets (hereafter the “Divestiture Assets”), including:
- A perpetual and exclusive United States license to Corona Extra, this country's best-selling imported beer and #5 brand overall, and to nine other Modelo Brand Beers including Corona Light, Modelo Especial, Negra Modelo, and Pacifico;
- Modelo's newest, most technologically advanced brewery (the “Piedras Negras Brewery”), which is located in Mexico near the Texas border, and the assets and companies associated with it;
- Modelo's limited liability membership interest in Crown Imports, LLC (“Crown”), the joint venture established by Modelo and Constellation to import, market, and sell certain Modelo beers into the United States; and
- Other assets, rights, and interests necessary to ensure that Constellation (or an alternative purchaser) is able to compete in the beer market in the United States using the Modelo Brand Beers, independent of a relationship with ABI and Modelo.
Under the terms of the Stipulation and Order, Constellation will be added as a Defendant for purposes of settlement, and ABI, Modelo, and Constellation will take certain steps to operate Crown, the Piedras Negras Brewery, and the other Divestiture Assets as competitively independent, economically viable, and ongoing assets whose commercial activities will remain uninfluenced by ABI until the sale to Constellation has closed.
In order to guarantee that the acquirer of the Divestiture Assets will be able to supply Modelo Brand Beer to the United States market independent of ABI, the proposed Final Judgment contains provisions designed to ensure that Constellation (or an alternative acquirer) will have sufficient brewing capacity to meet current and future demand for Modelo Brand Beer in the United States. Because the Piedras Negras Brewery currently produces enough Modelo Brand Beer to serve only approximately 60% of present U.S. demand, Constellation has committed to build out and expand the Piedras Negras Brewery to brew and package sufficient quantities of Corona, Modelo Especial, and other Modelo Brand Beer to meet the large and growing demand for these beers in the United States. This expansion is included as a direct requirement under the proposed Final Judgment and will assure Constellation's future independence as a self-supplied brewer and seller in the United States beer market.
The United States and Defendants have stipulated that the proposed Final Judgment may be entered after compliance with the APPA. Entry of the proposed Final Judgment would terminate this action, except that the Court would retain jurisdiction to construe, modify, or enforce the provisions of the proposed Final Judgment and to punish violations thereof.
II. Description of the Events Giving Rise to the Alleged Violation
A. The Defendants and the Proposed Transaction
ABI is a corporation organized and existing under the laws of Belgium, with headquarters in Leuven, Belgium. ABI brews and markets more beer sold in the United States than any other firm, with a 39% market share nationally. ABI owns and operates 125 breweries worldwide, including 12 in the United States. It owns more than 200 different beer brands, including Bud Light, the highest selling brand in the United States, and other popular brands such as Budweiser, Busch, Michelob, Natural Light, Stella Artois, Goose Island, and Beck's.
Modelo is a corporation organized and existing under the laws of Mexico, with headquarters in Mexico City, Mexico. Modelo is the third-largest brewer of beer sold in the United States, with a 7% market share nationally. Modelo owns the top-selling beer imported into the United States, Corona Extra. Its other popular brands sold in the United States include Corona Light, Modelo Especial, Negra Modelo, Victoria, and Pacifico. Crown, the joint venture established by Modelo and Constellation, imports, markets, and sells certain Modelo's brands into the United States.
Constellation, headquartered in Victor, New York, is a beer, wine, and spirits company with a portfolio of more than 100 products, including Robert Mondavi, Clos du Bois, Ruffino, and SVEDKA Vodka. It produces wine and distilled spirits, with more than forty facilities worldwide. Constellation is not currently a beer brewer; Constellation's only involvement in the beer market in the United States is through its interest in Crown, although it actively participates in the management of that joint venture. Constellation is a Defendant to this action for the purpose of assuring the satisfaction of the objectives of the proposed Final Judgment, including the expansion of the Piedras Negras Brewery.
ABI currently holds a 35.3% direct interest in Modelo, and a 23.3% direct interest in Modelo's operating subsidiary Diblo S.A. de C.V (“Diblo”). ABI's current stake in Modelo gives ABI certain minority voting rights and the right to appoint nine members of Modelo's 19-member Board of Directors.Start Printed Page 30410
On June 28, 2012, ABI agreed to purchase, through an Agreement and Plan of Merger, along with a Transaction Agreement between ABI, Modelo and Diblo, the remaining equity interest from Modelo's owners, thereby obtaining full ownership and control of Modelo, for approximately $20.1 billion.
At the time, Defendants also proposed to sell Modelo's stake in Crown to Constellation and enter into a ten-year supply agreement to provide Modelo beer to Constellation to import into the United States. The United States rejected this proposed vertical “fix” to a horizontal merger as inadequate to address the likely harm to competition that would result from the proposed transaction. Most importantly, the proposed supply agreement would not have alleviated the potential harm to competition that the proposed transaction created: It did not create an independent, fully-integrated brewer with permanent control of Modelo Brand Beer in the United States. The United States therefore filed a Complaint to enjoin this proposed acquisition on January 31, 2013.
B. The Competitive Effects of the Transaction on the Market for Beer in the United States
1. Relevant Markets
Beer is a relevant product market under Section 7. Wine, distilled liquor, and other alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverages do not substantially constrain the prices of beer, and a hypothetical monopolist in the beer market could profitably raise prices. ABI and other brewers generally categorize beers internally into different tiers based primarily on price, including sub-premium, premium, premium plus, and high-end. However, beers in different categories compete with each other, particularly when in adjacent tiers. For example, Modelo's Corona Extra—usually considered a high-end beer—regularly targets ABI's Bud Light, a premium light beer, as its primary competitor.
Both national and local geographic markets exist in this industry. The proposed merger would likely result in increased prices for beer in the United States market as a whole and in at least 26 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (“MSAs”). Large beer companies make competitive decisions and develop strategies regarding product development, marketing, and brand-building on a national level. Further, large beer brewers typically create and implement national pricing strategies.
However, beer brewers make many pricing and promotional decisions at the local level, reflecting local brand preferences, demographics, and other factors, which can vary significantly from one local market to another. The 26 MSAs alleged in the Complaint are areas in which beer purchasers are particularly vulnerable to targeted price increases.
2. Competitive Effects
The beer industry in the United States is highly concentrated and would become more so if ABI were allowed to acquire all of the remaining Modelo assets required to compete in the United States, as the transaction was originally proposed. ABI and MillerCoors, the two largest beer brewers in the United States, account for more than 65% of beer sold in the United States. Modelo is the third largest beer brewer, constituting approximately 7% of national sales, and in certain MSAs its market share approaches 20%. Heineken and hundreds of smaller fringe competitors comprise the remainder of the beer market. In the 26 MSAs alleged in the Complaint, ABI and Modelo control an even larger share of the market, creating a presumption under the Clayton Act that the merger of the two firms would result in harm to competition in those markets.
Even so, the market shares of ABI and Modelo understate the potential anticompetitive effect of the proposed merger. The United States determined through its investigation that large brewers engage in significant levels of tacit coordination and that coordination has reduced competition and increased prices. In most regions of the United States, major brewers implement price increases on an annual basis in the fall. ABI is usually first to announce its annual price increases, setting forth recommended wholesale price increases designed to be transparent and to encourage others to follow. MillerCoors typically announces its price increases after ABI has publicized its price increases, and largely matches ABI's price increases. As a result, although ABI and MillerCoors have highly visible competing advertising and product innovation programs, they do not substantially constrain each other's annual price increases.
The third largest brewer, Modelo, has increasingly constrained ABI's and MillerCoors's ability to raise prices. To build its market share, Modelo (through its importer Crown) has tended not to follow the announced price increases of ABI and MillerCoors. This competitive strategy narrowed the price gap between Modelo's high-end brands and ABI's and MillerCoors's premium and premium plus brands, allowing Modelo to build market share at the expense of ABI and MillerCoors. By compressing the price gap between high-end and premium brands, Modelo's actions have increasingly limited ABI's ability to lead beer prices higher. Therefore, ABI's acquisition of Modelo, as originally proposed, would have been likely to lead to higher beer prices in the United States by eliminating a competitor that resisted coordinated price increases initiated by the market share leader, ABI.
ABI and Modelo compete aggressively. Modelo brands compete with ABI brands in numerous venues and occasions, appealing to similar sets of consumers in terms of taste, quality, consumer perception, and value. As a result, Modelo (through its importer Crown) often sets its prices in particular markets with reference to the price of the leading ABI products, and engages in price competition through promotional activity designed to take share from the market leaders. Because a significant number of consumers regard the ABI brands and Modelo brands as substitutes, the merger, absent the divestiture, would create an incentive for ABI to raise the prices of some or all of the merged firm's brands and profitably recapture sales that result from consumers switching between the ABI brands and Modelo brands.
Further, competition from Modelo has spurred additional significant product innovation from ABI, including the introduction of Bud Light Lime, the introduction of new packages such as “Azulitas,”  and the expansion of Landshark Lager. The merger of the two firms, as originally proposed, would have been likely to negatively affect ABI's incentive to innovate, bring new products to market, and otherwise invest in attracting consumers away from the unique Modelo brands.
3. Entry and Expansion
Neither entry into the beer market, nor any repositioning of existing brewers, would undo the anticompetitive harm from ABI's acquisition of Modelo, as originally proposed. Modelo's brands compete well against ABI due to their brand positioning and reputation, their well-established marketing and broad acceptance by a wide range of consumers, and their robust distribution network resulting in the near-ubiquity of Corona Extra in the establishments where consumers purchase and Start Printed Page 30411consume beer. Any entrant would face enormous costs in attempting to replicate these assets, and would take many years to succeed. Building nationally recognized and accepted brands, which retailers will support with feature and display activity, is difficult, expensive, and time consuming. While consumers have undoubtedly benefited from the launch of many individual craft and specialty beers in the United States, the multiplicity of such brands does not replace the nature, scale, and scope of competition that Modelo provides today, and that would otherwise be eliminated by the proposed transaction.
III. Explanation of the Proposed Final Judgment
The proposed Final Judgment contains a clean, structural remedy that eliminates the likely anticompetitive effects of the acquisition in the market for beer in the United States and the 26 local markets identified in the Complaint. The divestitures required by the proposed Final Judgment will create an independent and economically viable competitor that will stand in the shoes of Modelo in the United States. Specifically, the divestiture of the Piedras Negras Brewery and Modelo's interest in Crown, and the perpetual brand licenses required by the proposed Final Judgment, will vest in Constellation (or an alternative purchaser, should ABI's divestiture to Constellation not be completed) the brewing capacity, the assets, and the other rights needed to produce, market, and sell Modelo Brand Beer in a manner similar to that which we see today. In short, the divestiture preserves the current structure of the beer market in the United States by maintaining an independent brewer with an incentive to resist following ABI's price leadership in order to expand share. Furthermore, the proposed Final Judgment puts an end to the existing entanglements between ABI and Modelo with respect to the United States beer market. Finally, the proposed Final Judgment also provides for supervision by this Court and the United States of the transition services necessary to allow Constellation or another acquirer to compete effectively while the divestiture and expansion of the Piedras Negras Brewery are completed.
A. The Divestiture
The proposed Final Judgment requires ABI, within 90 days after entry of the Stipulation and Order by the Court, to (1) divest to Constellation Modelo's current interest in Crown, along with the Piedras Negras Brewery and associated assets, and (2) grant to Constellation a perpetual, assignable license to ten of the most popular Modelo Brand Beers, including Corona and Modelo Especial, for sale in the United States. The rights, assets, and interests to be divested to Constellation are set forth in the transaction agreements that are attached as exhibits to the proposed Final Judgment. If the divestiture to Constellation should fail to close, ABI would be required to make those same divestitures, and grant the same licenses, to another acquirer acceptable to the United States for the purpose of enabling that alternative acquirer to brew Modelo Brand Beer, and to market and distribute them in the United States market.
The proposed Final Judgment differs significantly from the deal that ABI sought unilaterally to impose and that is described in the Complaint. It vertically integrates the production and sale of Modelo Brand Beer in the United States and eliminates ABI's control of Modelo Brand Beer in the United States, as illustrated below:
The proposed Final Judgment requires ABI to license rather than divest the brands because ABI retains the right to brew and market Modelo's brands throughout the rest of the world. The structure of the licenses provides Constellation all the rights and abilities it needs to compete in the United States as Modelo did before the merger, including the opportunity to introduce new brands in the United States that Modelo already markets in Mexico, such as León. The licenses are perpetual and assignable and cannot be terminated by ABI for any reason. They include the right to develop and launch new brand extensions and packages, to update brand recipes in response to consumer demand, and to adopt, or decline to adopt, any updated recipes for any of the licensed brands that ABI may choose to use outside the United States. This flexibility allows Constellation to adapt to changing market conditions in the United States to compete effectively in the future, and reduces ABI's ability to interfere with those adaptations.
The assets must be divested and/or licensed in such a way as to satisfy the United States, in its sole discretion, that the operations can and will be operated by the purchaser as a viable, ongoing business that can compete effectively in the relevant market. Defendants ABI and Modelo must take all reasonable steps necessary to accomplish the divestiture Start Printed Page 30412quickly. In the event that ABI does not accomplish the divestiture within 90 days as prescribed in the proposed Final Judgment, the Final Judgment provides that the Court will appoint a trustee selected by the United States to complete the divestiture.
B. Mandatory Expansion of the Piedras Negras Brewery
For the divestiture to be successful in replacing Modelo as a competitor, Constellation must expand the Piedras Negras Brewery's production capabilities. Section V.A of the proposed Final Judgment requires Constellation (or an alternative purchaser) to expand the Piedras Negras Brewery to be able to produce 20 million hectoliters of packaged beer annually by December 31, 2016. Such expansion will allow Constellation to produce, independently from ABI, enough Modelo Brand Beer to replicate Modelo's current competitive role in the United States. The required expansion also allows for expected future growth in sales of the licensed brands. In carrying out the expansion, Constellation is required to use its best efforts to adhere to specific construction milestones delineated in Sections V.A.1-8 of the proposed Final Judgment. A Monitoring Trustee will be appointed who will have the responsibility to observe the expansion and to report to the United States and the Court on whether the expansion is on track to be completed in the required timeframe.
Requiring the buyer of divested assets to improve those assets for the purposes of competing against the seller is an exceptional remedy that the United States found appropriate under the specific set of facts presented here. The recently constructed Piedras Negras Brewery is an ideal brewery for divestiture because it is near the United States border, is highly efficient, and features modular construction that was designed and equipped specifically to allow for economical expansion. No other combination of Modelo's brewing assets would have properly addressed the competitive harm caused by the proposed merger and allowed the acquirer of the Divestiture Assets to compete as effectively and economically with ABI as Modelo does today.
C. Employee Retention Provisions; Transitional Support and Supply Agreements
The proposed Final Judgment provides for or incorporates agreements protecting Constellation's ability to operate and expand the Piedras Negras Brewery while actively competing in the United States.
As part of the asset purchase, Constellation (or an alternative purchaser) will become the owner of the company that employs personnel who currently operate the Piedras Negras Brewery. Section IV.D of the proposed Final Judgment prevents ABI or Modelo from interfering with Constellation's retention of those employees as part of the asset transfer. Together with the transition services, this provides Constellation with the specific knowledge necessary to operate the Piedras Negras Brewery.
Sections IV.G-I of the proposed Final Judgment require the parties to enter into transition services and interim supply agreements. The transition services agreement (Section IV.G) requires ABI to provide consulting services with respect to topics such as the management of the Piedras Negras Brewery, logistics, material resource planning, and other general administrative services that Modelo currently provides to the Piedras Negras Brewery. The transition services agreement also requires ABI to supply certain key inputs (such as aluminum cans, glass, malt, yeast, and corn starch) for a limited time. The interim supply agreement (Section IV.H-I) requires ABI to supply Constellation with sufficient Modelo Brand Beer each year to make up for any difference between the demand for such beers in the United States and the Piedras Negras Brewery's capacity to fulfill that demand.
The transition services and interim supply agreements are necessary to allow Constellation (or an alternative purchaser) to continue to compete in the United States during the time it takes to expand the Piedras Negras Brewery's capacity to brew and bottle beer, but are time-limited to assure that Constellation will become a fully independent competitor to ABI as soon as practicable. As such, in conjunction with the firewall provisions described below, they prevent the vertical supply arrangement from causing competitive harm in the near term. The proposed Final Judgment subjects these agreements, including any extensions, to monitoring by a court-appointed trustee and, in the event that a firm other than Constellation acquires the assets, the acquisition requires approval by the United States.
D. Distribution of Modelo Brand Beer
Effective distribution is important for a brewer to be competitive in the beer industry. The proposed Final Judgment imposes two requirements on ABI regarding its distribution network that are designed to limit ABI's ability to interfere with Constellation's effective distribution of Modelo Brand Beer. These requirements ensure that Constellation can reduce the threat of discrimination in distribution at the hands of ABI-owned distributors or ABI-sponsored distributor incentive programs, in recognition of the influence ABI already exercises in the concentrated beer distribution markets.
First, Section V.C of the proposed Final Judgment provides that, for ABI's majority-owned distributors (“ABI-Owned Distributors”) that distribute Modelo Brand Beer, Constellation will have a window of opportunity to terminate that distribution relationship and direct the ABI-owned distributor to sell the distribution rights to another distributor. Similarly, should ABI subsequently acquire any distributors that have contractual rights to distribute Modelo Brand Beer, Constellation may require ABI to sell those rights.
Second, the proposed Final Judgment prevents ABI for 36 months from downgrading a distributor's ranking in ABI's distributor incentive programs by virtue of the distributor's decision to carry Modelo Brand Beer. The 36-month time period tracks the initial term of the transition service and interim supply agreements, and thus allows Constellation to maintain a status quo position for the Modelo Brand Beer in ABI's distribution incentive programs until Constellation can operate independently of ABI.
E. Divestiture Trustee
In the event that Defendants do not accomplish the divestiture as prescribed in the proposed Final Judgment, either to Constellation or to an alternative buyer, Section VI of the proposed Final Judgment provides that the Court will appoint a Divestiture Trustee selected by the United States to complete the divestiture. If a Divestiture Trustee is appointed, the proposed Final Judgment provides that ABI will pay all costs and expenses of the Divestiture Trustee. Under the proposed Final Judgment, the Divestiture Trustee shall have the ability to modify the package of assets to be divested, should such modification become necessary to enable an acquirer Start Printed Page 30413to expand and operate the Piedras Negras Brewery or if there has been a breach in the representations made by ABI and Modelo regarding the completeness of the assets. After his or her appointment becomes effective, the Divestiture Trustee will file monthly reports with the Court and the United States setting forth his or her efforts to accomplish the divestiture.
F. Monitoring Trustee
Section VIII of the proposed Final Judgment permits the appointment of a Monitoring Trustee by the United States in its sole discretion and the United States intends to appoint one and seek the Court's approval. The Monitoring Trustee will ensure that Defendants expeditiously comply with all of their obligations and perform all of their responsibilities under the proposed Final Judgment and the Stipulation and Order; that the Divestiture Assets remain economically viable, competitive, and ongoing assets; and that competition in the sale of beer in the United States in the relevant markets is maintained until the required divestitures and other requirements of the proposed Final Judgment have been accomplished. The Monitoring Trustee will have the power and authority to monitor Defendants' compliance with the terms of the Final Judgment and attendant interim supply and services contracts. The Monitoring Trustee will have access to all personnel, books, records, and information necessary to monitor such compliance, and will serve at the cost and expense of ABI. The Monitoring Trustee will file reports every 90 days with the United States and the Court setting forth Defendants' efforts to comply with their obligations under the proposed Final Judgment and the Stipulation and Order.
G. Stipulation and Order Provisions
Defendants have entered into the Stipulation and Order attached as an exhibit to the Explanation of Consent Decree Procedures, which was filed simultaneously with the Court, to ensure that, pending the divestitures, the Divestiture Assets are maintained as an ongoing, economically viable, and active business. The Stipulation and Order ensures that the Divestiture Assets are preserved and maintained in a condition that allows the divestitures to be effective. The Stipulation and Order also adds Constellation as a Defendant for purposes of entering the Final Judgment.
H. Notification Provisions
Section XII of the proposed Final Judgment requires ABI to notify the United States in advance of executing certain transactions that would not otherwise be reportable under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976. The transactions covered by these provisions include the acquisition or license of any interest in non-ABI brewing assets or brands, excluding acquisitions of: (1) Foreign-located assets that do not generate at least $7.5 million in annual gross revenue from beer sold for resale in the United States; (2) certain ordinary-course asset purchases and passive investments; and (3) distribution licenses that do not generate at least $3 million in annual gross revenue in the United States. This provision ensures that the United States will have the ability to take action in advance of any transactions that could potentially impact competition in the United States beer market.
Section XIII of the proposed Final Judgment requires ABI and Modelo to implement firewall procedures to prevent Constellation's (or an alternative acquirer's) confidential business information from being used within ABI or Modelo for any purpose that could harm competition or provide an unfair competitive advantage to ABI based on its role as a temporary supplier to Constellation under either the transition services or interim supply agreements. Within ten days of the Court approving the Stipulation and Order described above, ABI and Modelo must submit their planned procedures for maintaining a firewall. Additionally, ABI and Modelo must brief certain officers of the company and business personnel who have responsibility for commercial interactions with Constellation as to their required treatment of Constellation's confidential business information. This provision ensures that ABI and Modelo cannot improperly use any confidential information they receive from Constellation in ways that would harm competition in the beer industry or impair Constellation's competitive prospects.
IV. Remedies Available to Potential Private Litigants
Section 4 of the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. 15, provides that any person who has been injured as a result of conduct prohibited by the antitrust laws may bring suit in federal court to recover three times the damages the person has suffered, as well as costs and reasonable attorneys' fees. Entry of the proposed Final Judgment will neither impair nor assist the bringing of any private antitrust damage action. Under the provisions of Section 5(a) of the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. 16(a), the proposed Final Judgment has no prima facie effect in any subsequent private lawsuit that may be brought against Defendants.
V. Procedures Available for Modification of the Proposed Final Judgment
The United States and Defendants have stipulated that the proposed Final Judgment may be entered by the Court after compliance with the provisions of the APPA, provided that the United States has not withdrawn its consent. The APPA conditions entry upon the Court's determination that the proposed Final Judgment is in the public interest.
The APPA provides a period of at least sixty (60) days preceding the effective date of the proposed Final Judgment within which any person may submit to the United States written comments regarding the proposed Final Judgment. Any person who wishes to comment should do so within sixty (60) days of the date of publication of this Competitive Impact Statement in the Federal Register, or the last date of publication in a newspaper of the summary of this Competitive Impact Statement, whichever is later. All comments received during this period will be considered by the United States Department of Justice, which remains free to withdraw its consent to the proposed Final Judgment at any time prior to the Court's entry of judgment. The comments and the response of the United States will be filed with the Court. In addition, comments will be posted on the U.S. Department of Justice, Antitrust Division's internet Web site and published in the Federal Register.
Written comments should be submitted to: James Tierney, Chief, Networks and Technology Enforcement Section, Antitrust Division, United States Department of Justice, 450 5th Street NW., Suite 7100, Washington, DC 20530.
The proposed Final Judgment provides that the Court retains jurisdiction over this action, and the parties may apply to the Court for any order necessary or appropriate for the modification, interpretation, or enforcement of the Final Judgment.
VI. Alternatives to the Proposed Final Judgment
The United States considered, before initiating this lawsuit to enjoin the proposed merger, the Defendants' proposal of selling Modelo's stake in Crown to Constellation and entering into a ten-year supply agreement. The Start Printed Page 30414United States ultimately rejected this proposal as inadequate to address the merger's likely anticompetitive effects. The settlement embodied within the proposed Final Judgment differs significantly from the Defendants' original solution. Most importantly, the proposed Final Judgment ensures that Modelo Brand Beer sold in the United States will be brewed, imported, and sold by a firm that is vertically integrated and completely independent from ABI. Unlike the Defendants' original proposal, which left Constellation with no brewing assets, beholden to ABI for the supply of beer, and was terminable after ten years, the proposed Final Judgment ensures Constellation will have independent brewing assets and the ownership of the Modelo Brand Beer for sale in the United States in perpetuity.
The United States also considered, as an alternative to the proposed Final Judgment, a full trial on the merits against Defendants ABI and Modelo. The United States could have continued the litigation and sought preliminary and permanent injunctions against ABI's acquisition of Modelo. The United States is satisfied, however, that the divestiture of assets described in the proposed Final Judgment, and concomitant expansion of the brewery assets, will preserve competition for the provision of beer in the relevant market identified by the United States. Thus, the proposed Final Judgment would achieve all or substantially all of the relief the United States would have obtained through litigation, but avoids the time, expense, and uncertainty of a full trial on the merits of the Complaint.
VII. Standard of Review Under the APPA for the Proposed Final Judgment
The Clayton Act, as amended by the APPA, requires that proposed consent judgments in antitrust cases brought by the United States be subject to a sixty-day comment period, after which the court shall determine whether entry of the proposed Final Judgment “is in the public interest.” 15 U.S.C. 16(e)(1). In making that determination, the court, in accordance with the statute as amended in 2004, is required to consider:
(A) The competitive impact of such judgment, including termination of alleged violations, provisions for enforcement and modification, duration of relief sought, anticipated effects of alternative remedies actually considered, whether its terms are ambiguous, and any other competitive considerations bearing upon the adequacy of such judgment that the court deems necessary to a determination of whether the consent judgment is in the public interest; and
(B) the impact of entry of such judgment upon competition in the relevant market or markets, upon the public generally and individuals alleging specific injury from the violations set forth in the complaint including consideration of the public benefit, if any, to be derived from a determination of the issues at trial.
15 U.S.C. 16(e)(1)(A) & (B). In considering these statutory factors, the court's inquiry is necessarily a limited one as the government is entitled to “broad discretion to settle with the defendant within the reaches of the public interest.” United States v. Microsoft Corp., 56 F.3d 1448, 1461 (D.C. Cir. 1995); see generally United States v. SBC Commc'ns, Inc., 489 F. Supp. 2d 1 (D.D.C. 2007) (assessing public interest standard under the Tunney Act); United States v. InBev N.V./S.A., 2009-2 Trade Cas. (CCH) ¶ 76,736, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 84787, No. 08-1965 (JR), at *3, (D.D.C. Aug. 11, 2009) (noting that the court's review of a consent judgment is limited and only inquires “into whether the government's determination that the proposed remedies will cure the antitrust violations alleged in the complaint was reasonable, and whether the mechanism to enforce the final judgment are clear and manageable.”).
As the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has held, under the APPA a court considers, among other things, the relationship between the remedy secured and the specific allegations set forth in the government's complaint, whether the decree is sufficiently clear, whether enforcement mechanisms are sufficient, and whether the decree may positively harm third parties. See Microsoft, 56 F.3d at 1458-62. With respect to the adequacy of the relief secured by the decree, a court may not “engage in an unrestricted evaluation of what relief would best serve the public.” United States v. BNS, Inc., 858 F.2d 456, 462 (9th Cir. 1988) (citing United States v. Bechtel Corp., 648 F.2d 660, 666 (9th Cir. 1981)); see also Microsoft, 56 F.3d at 1460-62; United States v. Alcoa, Inc., 152 F. Supp. 2d 37, 40 (D.D.C. 2001); InBev, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 84787, at *3. Courts have held that:
[t]he balancing of competing social and political interests affected by a proposed antitrust consent decree must be left, in the first instance, to the discretion of the Attorney General. The court's role in protecting the public interest is one of insuring that the government has not breached its duty to the public in consenting to the decree. The court is required to determine not whether a particular decree is the one that will best serve society, but whether the settlement is “within the reaches of the public interest.” More elaborate requirements might undermine the effectiveness of antitrust enforcement by consent decree.
Bechtel, 648 F.2d at 666 (emphasis added) (citations omitted). In determining whether a proposed settlement is in the public interest, a district court “must accord deference to the government's predictions about the efficacy of its remedies, and may not require that the remedies perfectly match the alleged violations.” SBC Commc'ns, 489 F. Supp. 2d at 17; see also Microsoft, 56 F.3d at 1461 (noting the need for courts to be “deferential to the government's predictions as to the effect of the proposed remedies”); United States v. Archer-Daniels-Midland Co., 272 F. Supp. 2d 1, 6 (D.D.C. 2003) (noting that the court should grant due respect to the United States' prediction as to the effect of proposed remedies, its perception of the market structure, and its views of the nature of the case).
Courts have greater flexibility in approving proposed consent decrees than in crafting their own decrees following a finding of liability in a litigated matter. “[A] proposed decree must be approved even if it falls short of the remedy the court would impose on its own, as long as it falls within the range of acceptability or is `within the reaches of public interest.'” United States v. Am. Tel. & Tel. Co., 552 F. Supp. 131, 151 (D.D.C. 1982) (citations omitted) (quoting United States v. Gillette Co., 406 F. Supp. 713, 716 (D. Mass. 1975)), aff'd sub nom. Maryland v. United States, 460 U.S. 1001 (1983); see also United States v. Alcan Aluminum Ltd., 605 F. Supp. 619, 622 (W.D. Ky. 1985) (approving the consent decree even though the court would have imposed a greater remedy). To meet this standard, the United States “need only provide a factual basis for concluding that the settlements are reasonably adequate remedies for the Start Printed Page 30415alleged harms.” SBC Commc'ns, 489 F. Supp. 2d at 17.
Moreover, the court's role under the APPA is limited to reviewing the remedy in relationship to the violations that the United States has alleged in its Complaint, and does not authorize the court to “construct [its] own hypothetical case and then evaluate the decree against that case.” Microsoft, 56 F.3d at 1459; see also InBev, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 84787, at *20 (“the `public interest' is not to be measured by comparing the violations alleged in the complaint against those the court believes could have, or even should have, been alleged”). Because the “court's authority to review the decree depends entirely on the government's exercising its prosecutorial discretion by bringing a case in the first place,” it follows that “the court is only authorized to review the decree itself,” and not to “effectively redraft the complaint” to inquire into other matters that the United States did not pursue. Microsoft, 56 F.3d at 1459-60. As this court confirmed in SBC Communications, courts “cannot look beyond the complaint in making the public interest determination unless the complaint is drafted so narrowly as to make a mockery of judicial power.” SBC Commc'ns, 489 F. Supp. 2d at 15.
In its 2004 amendments, Congress made clear its intent to preserve the practical benefits of utilizing consent decrees in antitrust enforcement, adding the unambiguous instruction that “[n]othing in this section shall be construed to require the court to conduct an evidentiary hearing or to require the court to permit anyone to intervene.” 15 U.S.C. 16(e)(2). The language wrote into the statute what Congress intended when it enacted the Tunney Act in 1974, as Senator Tunney explained: “[t]he court is nowhere compelled to go to trial or to engage in extended proceedings which might have the effect of vitiating the benefits of prompt and less costly settlement through the consent decree process.” 119 Cong. Rec. 24,598 (1973) (statement of Senator Tunney). Rather, the procedure for the public interest determination is left to the discretion of the court, with the recognition that the court's “scope of review remains sharply proscribed by precedent and the nature of Tunney Act proceedings.” SBC Commc'ns, 489 F. Supp. 2d at 11.
VIII. Determinative Documents
The following determinative materials or documents within the meaning of the APPA were considered by the United States in formulating the proposed Final Judgment:
- The Stock Purchase Agreement attached and labeled as Exhibit A to the proposed Final Judgment;
- The Amended and Restated Membership Interest Purchase Agreement attached and labeled as Exhibit A to the proposed Final Judgment;
- The Amended and Restated Sub-License Agreement attached and labeled as Exhibit A to the Stock Purchase Agreement;
- The Transition Services Agreement attached and labeled as Exhibit B to the Stock Purchase Agreement; and
- The Interim Supply Agreement attached and labeled as Exhibit A to the Amended and Restated Membership Interest Purchase Agreement.
Dated: April 19, 2013.
s/Mary N. Strimel
Mary N. Strimel (D.C. Bar No. 455303),
Trial Attorney, United States Department of Justice, Antitrust Division, 450 5th Street NW., Suite 7100, Washington, DC 20530, Tel: (202) 616-5949, email@example.com.
United States District Court For the District of Columbia
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff, v. ANHEUSER-BUSCH InBEV SA/NV, et al., Defendants.
Judge Richard W. Roberts
Certificate of Service
I hereby certify that on the 19th day of April, 2013, I electronically filed the below-listed documents with the Clerk of the Court using the CM/ECF system:
1. United States' Explanation of Consent Decree Procedures Attachment A: Stipulation and Order Attachment B: Final Judgment [proposed]
2. Competitive Impact Statement
3. Motion for Leave to File Exhibits Under Seal
4. Notice of Filing Under Seal; and
5. Certificate of Service
The CM/ECF system will send a notice of electronic filing (NEF) to counsel for the Defendants:
For Defendant Anheuser Busch InBev SA/NV:
Steven C. Sunshine
Gregory Bestor Craig
Ian G. John
Karen Hoffman Lent
Thomas J. Nolan
SKADDEN, ARPS, SLATE, MEAGHER & FLOM LLP, 300 South Grand Avenue, Suite 3400, Los Angeles, California 90071, Tel. (213) 687-5250, Thomas.Nolan@skadden.com
For Defendant Grupo Modelo S.A. de C.V.:
Richard J. Stark
The CM/ECF system will send a notice of electronic filing (NEF) to the counsel below, whom I also served with the above-listed documents via email after obtaining written consent pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 5(b)(2)(E):
For Proposed Settlement Defendant Constellation Brands, Inc.,
Margaret H. Warner
Raymond A. Jacobsen, Jr.
Jon B. Dubrow
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
/s/Mary N. Strimel
Mary N. Strimel (D.C. Bar No. 455303), Trial Attorney, Antitrust Division, U.S. Department of Justice, 450 Fifth Street NW., Suite 7100, Washington, DC 20530, Telephone: (202) 616-5949, Email: firstname.lastname@example.orgStart Printed Page 30416
United States District Court For the District of Columbia
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff, v. ANHEUSER-BUSCH InBEV SA/NV, et al., Defendants.
Judge Richard W. Roberts
Proposed Final Judgment
Whereas, Plaintiff United States of America (“United States”) filed its Complaint against Defendants Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV (“ABI”) and Grupo Modelo, S.A.B. de C.V. (“Modelo”) on January 31, 2013;
And whereas, pursuant to a Stipulation among Plaintiff and the Defendants including Defendant Constellation Brands, Inc., (“Constellation”), the Court has joined Constellation as a Defendant to this action for the purposes of settlement and for the entry of this Final Judgment;
And whereas, the United States and Defendants ABI, Modelo, and Constellation, by their respective attorneys, have consented to entry of this Final Judgment without trial or adjudication of any issue of fact or law, and without this Final Judgment constituting any evidence against or admission by any party regarding any issue of fact or law;
And whereas, Defendants agree to be bound by the provisions of the Final Judgment pending its approval by the Court;
And whereas, the essence of this Final Judgment is (a) the prompt and certain divestiture of certain rights and assets held by Defendants ABI and Modelo to Defendant Constellation (or other firm) as an Acquirer, to assure that competition is not substantially lessened; and (b) the necessary and appropriate build-out and capacity expansion of the Piedras Negras Brewery by the Acquirer over time to ensure that the Acquirer is able to compete in the United States independent of a relationship to the Sellers;
And whereas, this Final Judgment requires Defendants ABI and Modelo to make certain divestitures to Defendant Constellation (or other Acquirer) for the purpose of remedying the loss of competition alleged in the Complaint;
And whereas, Defendants ABI and Modelo intend for the divestiture of certain rights and assets to Constellation (or other Acquirer) to be permanent;
And whereas, this Final Judgment requires Defendant Constellation (or other Acquirer) to make certain investments for the purpose of expanding the capacity of the Piedras Negras Brewery;
And whereas, Defendants have represented to the United States that the divestitures required below can and will be made, and Defendant Constellation has represented that the Piedras Negras Brewery investments and expansion can and will be accomplished, and that Defendants will later raise no claim of hardship or difficulty as grounds for asking the Court to modify any of the provisions contained below;
Now therefore, before any testimony is taken, without trial or adjudication of any issue of fact or law, and upon consent of the parties, it is ordered, adjudged, and decreed:
This Court has jurisdiction over the subject matter of and each of the parties to this action. The Complaint states a claim upon which relief may be granted against Defendants ABI and Modelo under Section 7 of the Clayton Act, as amended (15 U.S.C. 18). Pursuant to the Stipulation filed simultaneously with this Final Judgment joining Constellation as a Defendant to this action for the purpose of this Final Judgment, Constellation has consented to this Court's exercise of personal jurisdiction over it.
As used in the Final Judgment:
A. “ABI” means Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV, its domestic and foreign parents, predecessors, divisions, subsidiaries, affiliates, partnerships and joint ventures (excluding Crown, and, prior to the completion of the Transaction, Modelo); and all directors, officers, employees, agents, and representatives of the foregoing. The terms “parent,” “subsidiary,” “affiliate,” and “joint venture” refer to any person in which there is majority (greater than 50 percent) or total ownership or control between the company and any other person.
B. “ABI-Owned Distributor” means any Distributor in which ABI owns more than 50 percent of the outstanding equity interests as of the date of the divestiture of the Divestiture Assets.
C. “Acquirer” means:
1. Constellation; or
2. an alternative purchaser of the Divestiture Assets selected pursuant to the procedures set forth in this Final Judgment.
D. “Acquirer Confidential Information” means:
1. Confidential commercial information of Constellation (or other Acquirer) that has been obtained from such entity, including quantities, units, and prices of items ordered or purchased from the Sellers by the Acquirer, and any other competitively sensitive information regarding the Sellers' or the Acquirer's performance under the Interim Supply Agreement or the Transition Services Agreement; and
2. confidential unit sales data, non-public pricing strategies and plans, or any other confidential commercial information of the Acquirer that either an ABI-Owned Distributor, or any other Distributor in which ABI acquires a majority interest after the date of the divestiture contemplated herein, obtains from the Acquirer by virtue of its relationship with the Acquirer.
E. “Beer” means any fermented alcoholic beverage that (1) is composed in part of water, a type of starch, yeast, and a flavoring and (2) has undergone the process of brewing.
F. “Brewery Companies” means (1) Compañia Cervecera de Coahuila S.A. de C.V., a subsidiary of Grupo Modelo with its headquarters in Coahuila, Mexico, and (2) Servicios Modelo de Coahuila, S.A. de C.V., a subsidiary of Grupo Modelo with its headquarters in Coahuila, Mexico.
G. “Constellation” means Constellation Brands, Inc., its domestic and foreign parents, predecessors, divisions, subsidiaries, affiliates, partnerships and joint ventures, including but not limited to, Crown, and all directors, officers, employees, agents, and representatives of the foregoing. The terms “parent,” “subsidiary,” “affiliate,” and “joint venture” refer to any person in which there is majority (greater than 50 percent) or total ownership or control between the company and any other person.
H. “Covered Entity” means any Beer brewer, importer, or brand owner (other than ABI) that derives more than $7.5 million in annual gross revenue from Beer sold for further resale in the United States, or from license fees generated by such Beer sales.
I. “Covered Interest” means any non-ABI Beer brewing assets or any non-ABI Beer brand assets of, or any interest in (including any financial, security, loan, equity, intellectual property, or management interest), a Covered Entity; except that a Covered Interest shall not include (i) a Beer brewery or Beer brand located outside the United States that does not generate at least $7.5 million in annual gross revenue from Beer sold for resale in the United States; or (ii) a license to distribute a non-ABI Beer brand where said distribution license does not generate at least $3 million in annual gross revenue in the United States.Start Printed Page 30417
J. “Crown” means Crown Imports, LLC, the joint venture between Constellation and Modelo that is in the business of importing Modelo Brand Beer into the United States, or any successor thereto.
K. “Defendants” means ABI, Modelo, and Constellation, and any successor or assignee to all or substantially all of the business or assets of ABI, Modelo, or Constellation involved in the brewing of Beer.
L. “Distributor” means a wholesaler in the Territory who acts as an intermediary between a brewer or importer of Beer and a retailer of Beer.
M. “Distributor Incentive Program” means the Anheuser-Busch Voluntary Alignment Incentive Program and any other policy or program, either currently in effect or implemented hereafter, that offers some type of benefit to a Distributor based on the Distributor's sales performance, its loyalty in supporting any brand or brands of Beer, or its commercial support for any brand or brands of Beer, including decisions of which brands to carry or the sales volume of each.
N. “Divestiture Assets” means all tangible and intangible assets, rights and interests necessary to effectuate the purposes of this Final Judgment, as specified by the following agreements attached hereto and labeled as Exhibit A to this Final Judgment: The Stock Purchase Agreement (including the exhibits thereto) and the MIPA (including the exhibits thereto). In addition:
1. In the event that the Acquirer is a buyer other than Constellation, the Divestiture Assets shall also include the Entire Importer Interest, pursuant to ABI's Drag-Along Right to require Constellation to divest such interest, and subject to Constellation's right to receive compensation in the event of such divestiture, as set forth in Section 12.5 of the MIPA, attached hereto in Exhibit A; and
a. in the event that a Divestiture Trustee is appointed, the Divestiture Trustee may, with the consent of the United States pursuant to Section IV.J herein: Include in the Divestiture Assets any additional assets, including tangible assets as well as intellectual property interests and other intangible interests or assets that extend beyond the United States, if the Divestiture Trustee finds the inclusion of such assets necessary to enable the Acquirer to expand the Piedras Negras Brewery to a Nominal Capacity of at least twenty (20) million hectoliters of packaged Beer per year, or to remedy any breach that the Monitoring Trustee has identified pursuant to Section VIII.B.3 herein; or
b. remove from the divestiture package any assets that are not needed by the Acquirer to accomplish the purposes of this Final Judgment, if such removal will facilitate the divestiture of Modelo's United States Beer business as contemplated by this Final Judgment.
O. “Drag-Along Right” means ABI's right, as defined in Section 12.5(b) of the MIPA, attached hereto in Exhibit A, to require Constellation to divest Constellation's interest in Crown in the event Constellation is not the Acquirer.
P. “Entire Importer Interest” means Constellation's present interest in Crown, as defined in Section 12.5(b) of the MIPA, attached hereto in Exhibit A.
Q. “Hold Separate Stipulation and Order” means the Stipulation and Order filed by the parties simultaneously herewith, which imposes certain duties on the Defendants with respect to the operation of the Divestiture Assets pending the proposed divestitures, and also adds Constellation as a Defendant in this action.
R. “Interim Supply Agreement” means:
1. The form of agreement between Modelo and Crown, attached as Exhibit A to the MIPA, attached hereto, and incorporated herein, or
2. in the event the Divestiture Assets are sold to an Acquirer other than Constellation, an agreement between Sellers and the Acquirer to provide the same types of services under substantially similar terms as provided in Exhibit A to the MIPA incorporated hereto, subject to approval by the United States in its sole discretion.
S. “MIPA” means the Amended and Restated Membership Interest Purchase Agreement among Constellation Beers Ltd., Constellation Brands Beach Holdings, Inc., Constellation Brands, Inc., and Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV dated February 13, 2013, as amended on April 19, 2013, and attached hereto in Exhibit A.
T. “Modelo” means Grupo Modelo, S.A.B. de C.V., its domestic and foreign parents, predecessors, divisions, subsidiaries, affiliates, partnerships and joint ventures (excluding Crown and the entities listed on Exhibit B hereto); and all directors, officers, employees, agents, and representatives of the foregoing. The terms “parent,” “subsidiary,” “affiliate,” and “joint venture” refer to any person in which there is majority (greater than 50 percent) or total ownership or control between the company and any other person.
U. “Modelo Brand Beer” means any Beer SKU that is part of the Divestiture Assets, and any Beer SKU that may become subject to the agreements giving effect to the divestitures required by Sections IV or VI of this Final Judgment.
V. “Nominal Capacity” means a brewery's annual production capacity for packaged Beer, if the brewery were operated at 100% capacity.
W. “Piedras Negras Brewery” means all the land and all existing structures, buildings, plants, infrastructure, equipment, fixed assets, inventory, tooling, personal property, titles, leases, office furniture, materials, supplies, and other tangible property located in Nava, Coahuila, Mexico and owned by the Brewery Companies.
X. “Sellers” means ABI and Modelo.
Y. “Stock Purchase Agreement” means the Stock Purchase Agreement between Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV and Constellation Brands, Inc. dated February 13, 2013, as amended on April 19, 2013, and attached hereto in Exhibit A.
Z. “Sub-License Agreement” means the Amended and Restated Sub-License Agreement between Marcas Modelo, S.A. de C.V. and Constellation Beers Ltd., attached as Exhibit A to the Stock Purchase Agreement.
AA. “Territory” means the fifty states of the United States of America, the District of Columbia, and Guam.
BB. “Transaction” means ABI's proposed acquisition of the remainder of Modelo.
CC. “Transition Services Agreement” means:
1. The form of agreement between ABI and Constellation attached as Exhibit B to the Stock Purchase Agreement, and incorporated herein; or
2. in the event the Divestiture Assets are sold to an Acquirer other than Constellation, an agreement between Sellers and such Acquirer to provide the same types of services under substantially similar terms as provided in Exhibit B to the Stock Purchase Agreement incorporated hereto, subject to approval by the United States in its sole discretion.
A. This Final Judgment applies to Defendants, as defined above, and all other persons in active concert or participation with any of them who receive actual notice of this Final Judgment by personal service or otherwise.
B. If, prior to complying with Section IV and VI of this Final Judgment, Sellers sell or otherwise dispose of all or substantially all of their assets or of lesser business units that include the Divestiture Assets, they shall require the purchaser to be bound by the provisions of this Final Judgment.Start Printed Page 30418
A. The Court orders the divestitures set forth in this Section IV, having accepted the following representations made by the parties as of the date of filing this Final Judgment:
1. By ABI, the certain representations contained in Section 3.25 of the Stock Purchase Agreement attached in Exhibit A hereto regarding the sufficiency of the assets to be divested;
2. by ABI, the certain representations contained in Section 3.26 of the Stock Purchase Agreement attached in Exhibit A hereto regarding the absence of present knowledge of impediments to the expansion of capacity of the Piedras Negras Brewery;
3. by Modelo, the representations set forth in the Letter of Grupo Modelo, S.A.B. de C.V., dated April 17, 2013, attached hereto as Exhibit C, regarding the issues described in subparagraphs A.1 and A.2 above; and
4. by Modelo, the representations set forth in the Letter of Grupo Modelo, S.A.B. de C.V., dated April 17, 2013, attached hereto as Exhibit C, regarding the sufficiency of the assets being divested for the importation, marketing, distribution and sale of Modelo Brand Beer in the United States.
B. ABI is ordered and directed, upon the later of (1) the completion of the Transaction or (2) ninety (90) calendar days after the filing of this proposed Final Judgment, to divest the Divestiture Assets in a manner consistent with this Final Judgment to an Acquirer acceptable to the United States in its sole discretion. The United States, in its sole discretion, may agree to one or more extensions of this time period not to exceed sixty (60) calendar days in total, and shall notify the Court in such circumstances. ABI agrees to use its best efforts to divest the Divestiture Assets as expeditiously as possible.
C. In the event Sellers are attempting to divest the Divestiture Assets to an Acquirer other than Constellation, in accomplishing the divestiture ordered by this Final Judgment, Sellers promptly shall make known, by usual and customary means, the availability of the Divestiture Assets. Sellers shall inform any person making inquiry regarding a possible purchase of the Divestiture Assets that they are being divested pursuant to this Final Judgment and provide that person with a copy of this Final Judgment. Sellers shall offer to furnish to all prospective Acquirers, subject to customary confidentiality assurances, all information and documents relating to the Divestiture Assets customarily provided in a due diligence process except such information or documents subject to the attorney-client privileges or work-product doctrine. Sellers shall make available such information to the United States at the same time that such information is made available to any other person.
D. Sellers shall provide the Acquirer and the United States information relating to the personnel involved in the operation of the Divestiture Assets to enable the Acquirer to make offers of employment. Sellers will not interfere with any negotiations by the Acquirer to retain, employ or contract with any employee of the Brewery Companies. Interference with respect to this paragraph includes, but is not limited to, enforcement of non-compete clauses, solicitation of employment with ABI or Modelo, offers to transfer to another facility of ABI or Modelo, and offers to increase salary or other benefits apart from those offered company-wide.
E. In the event the Sellers are attempting to divest the Divestiture Assets to an Acquirer other than Constellation, Sellers shall permit prospective Acquirers of the Divestiture Assets to have reasonable access to personnel and to make inspections of the physical facilities of the Piedras Negras Brewery; access to any and all environmental, zoning, and other permit documents and information; and access to any and all financial, operational, or other documents and information customarily provided as part of a due diligence process.
F. Defendants shall, as soon as possible, but within two (2) business days after completion of the relevant event, notify the United States of: (1) The effective date of the completion of the Transaction; and (2) the effective date of the sale of the Divestiture Assets to the Acquirer.
G. Any amendment or modification of any of the agreements in Exhibit A, or any similar agreements entered with an Acquirer pursuant to Section IV.B, may only be entered into with the approval of the United States in its sole discretion. Sellers and the Acquirer shall enter into a Transition Services Agreement for a period up to three (3) years from the date of the divestiture to enable the Acquirer to compete effectively in providing Beer in the United States. Sellers shall perform all duties and provide any and all services required of Sellers under the Transition Services Agreement. Any amendments or modifications of the Transition Services Agreement may only be entered into with the approval of the United States in its sole discretion.
H. Sellers and the Acquirer shall enter into an Interim Supply Agreement for a period up to three (3) years from the execution date of the divestiture to enable the Acquirer to compete effectively in providing Beer in the United States. Sellers shall perform all duties and provide any and all services required of Sellers under the Interim Supply Agreement. Any amendments, modifications, or extensions of the Interim Supply Agreement beyond three (3) years may only be entered into with the approval of the United States in its sole discretion.
I. If the Acquirer seeks an extension of the Interim Supply Agreement, the Acquirer shall so notify the United States in writing at least four (4) months prior to the date the Interim Supply Agreement expires. If the United States approves such an extension, it shall so notify the Acquirer in writing at least three (3) months prior to the date the Interim Supply Agreement expires. The total term of the Interim Supply Agreement and any extension(s) so approved shall not exceed five (5) years.
J. Unless the United States otherwise consents in writing, the divestiture pursuant to Section IV or VI shall include the entire Divestiture Assets, and shall be accomplished in such a way as to satisfy the United States, in its sole discretion, that the Divestiture Assets can and will be used by the Acquirer as part of a viable, ongoing business, engaged in providing Beer in the United States. The divestiture shall be:
1. made to an Acquirer that, in the United States' sole judgment, has the intent and capability (including the necessary managerial, operational, technical and financial capability) to complete the expansion of the Piedras Negras Brewery as contemplated herein, and to compete in the business of providing Beer; and
2. accomplished so as to satisfy the United States, in its sole discretion, that none of the terms of the agreement between an Acquirer and Sellers gives Sellers the ability unreasonably to raise the Acquirer's costs, to lower the Acquirer's efficiency, or otherwise to interfere in the ability of the Acquirer to compete effectively.
V. Required Expansion and Other Provisions Designed To Promote Competition
A. Acquirer shall accomplish the expansion of the Piedras Negras Brewery to a Nominal Capacity of at least twenty (20) million hectoliters of packaged Beer annually, to include the ability to produce commercially reasonable quantities of each Modelo Brand Beer offered by Crown for sale in the United States as of the date of filing Start Printed Page 30419this proposed Final Judgment. Acquirer shall complete the above expansion by December 31, 2016. As part of the expansion of the Piedras Negras Brewery, Defendant Constellation shall use its best efforts to complete the following construction milestones by the specified deadlines:
1. Within six (6) months from the date of divestiture, the appointment of, and contracts executed with, design and engineering firms;
2. Within twelve (12) months from the date of divestiture, the completion of the design and engineering (including specifications and rated capacities) of the brewhouse, packaging hall, and warehouse;
3. Within twelve (12) months from the date of divestiture, the obtainment of all necessary permits;
4. Within twelve (12) months from the date of divestiture, the commencement of construction of the brewhouse, packaging hall, and warehouse;
5. Within twenty-four (24) months from the date of divestiture, the completion of the construction of the warehouse and completion of the installation of equipment in the warehouse;
6. Within thirty (30) months from the date of divestiture, the completion of the construction of the brewhouse and completion of the installation of equipment in the brewhouse;
7. Within thirty-six (36) months from the date of divestiture, the completion of the construction of the packaging hall and the completion of the installation of equipment in the packaging hall; and
8. Within thirty-six (36) months from the date of divestiture, Constellation determines in its discretion that it is able to obtain its supply requirements from the Piedras Negras Brewery and is no longer dependent on supply under the Interim Supply Agreement.
B. For a period of thirty-six (36) months after the date of the divestiture, (i) ABI shall not make any change to its Distributor Incentive Program that would cause any Modelo Brand Beer to count against a Distributor's level of alignment, nor implement a new Distributor Incentive Program that would have a similar effect; and (ii) additionally, any Distributor's carrying of Modelo Brand Beer shall not be considered by ABI to be an adverse factor or circumstance when determining whether or not to approve such Distributor's purchase of any other Distributor.
C. For a period of two (2) years beginning one (1) year after filing of this proposed Final Judgment, as to any ABI-Owned Distributor that has rights to distribute Modelo Brand Beer in the Territory, the Acquirer shall have the right, upon sixty (60) days notice to ABI, to direct the ABI-Owned Distributor to sell those rights to another Distributor identified by Acquirer, subject to the terms for such sales set forth in Exhibit D hereto, and incorporated herein. At least thirty (30) days before ABI acquires a majority of the equity interests in any additional Distributors after divestiture of the Divestiture Assets, and such Distributors have rights to distribute Modelo Brand Beer in the Territory, ABI shall notify the Acquirer of any such planned acquisition and the Acquirer shall have thirty (30) days from the date of such notice to provide notice to ABI that the Acquirer intends to exercise the rights outlined in Exhibit D hereto.
D. If Sellers and the Acquirer enter into any new agreement(s) with each other with respect to the brewing, packaging, production, marketing, importing, distribution, or sale of Beer in the United States or elsewhere, Sellers and the Acquirer shall notify the United States of the new agreement(s) at least sixty (60) calendar days in advance of such agreement(s) becoming effective and such agreement(s) may only be entered into with the approval of the United States in its sole discretion.
VI. Appointment of Trustee To Effect Divestiture
A. If Sellers have not divested the Divestiture Assets within the time period specified in Section IV.B, Sellers shall notify the United States of that fact in writing. Upon application of the United States, the Court shall appoint a Divestiture Trustee selected by the United States and approved by the Court to divest the Divestiture Assets in a manner consistent with this Final Judgment.
B. After the appointment of a Divestiture Trustee becomes effective, only the Divestiture Trustee shall have the right to sell the Divestiture Assets. The Divestiture Trustee shall have the power and authority to accomplish the divestiture to an Acquirer acceptable to the United States at such price and on such terms as are then obtainable upon reasonable effort by the Divestiture Trustee, subject to the provisions of Sections IV, V, VI, and VII of this Final Judgment, and shall have such other powers as this Court deems appropriate.
C. Subject to Section VI.E of this Final Judgment, the Divestiture Trustee may hire at the cost and expense of Sellers any investment bankers, attorneys, or other agents, who shall be solely accountable to the Divestiture Trustee, reasonably necessary in the Divestiture Trustee's judgment to assist in the divestiture.
D. Defendants shall not object to a sale by the Divestiture Trustee on any ground other than the Divestiture Trustee's malfeasance. Any such objections by Defendants must be conveyed in writing to the United States and the Divestiture Trustee within ten (10) calendar days after the Divestiture Trustee has provided the notice required under Section VII.A.
E. The Divestiture Trustee shall serve at the cost and expense of Sellers, pursuant to a written agreement with Sellers on such terms and conditions as the United States approves, and shall account for all monies derived from the sale of the assets sold by the Divestiture Trustee and all costs and expenses so incurred. After approval by the Court of the Divestiture Trustee's accounting, including fees for its services and those of any professionals and agents retained by the Divestiture Trustee, all remaining money shall be paid to Sellers and the trust shall then be terminated. The compensation of the Divestiture Trustee and any professionals and agents retained by the Divestiture Trustee shall be reasonable in light of the value of the Divestiture Assets and based on a fee arrangement providing the Divestiture Trustee with an incentive based on the price and terms of the divestiture and the speed with which it is accomplished, but timeliness is paramount.
F. Defendants shall use their best efforts to assist the Divestiture Trustee in accomplishing the required divestiture. The Divestiture Trustee and any consultants, accountants, attorneys, and other persons retained by the Divestiture Trustee shall have full and complete access to the personnel, books, records, and facilities of the business to be divested, and Defendants shall develop financial and other information relevant to such business as the Divestiture Trustee may reasonably request, subject to reasonable protection for trade secret or other confidential research, development, or commercial information. Defendants shall take no action to interfere with or to impede the Divestiture Trustee's accomplishment of the divestiture.
G. After its appointment, the Divestiture Trustee shall file monthly reports with the United States and the Court setting forth the Divestiture Trustee's efforts to accomplish the divestiture ordered under this Final Judgment. To the extent such reports contain information that the Divestiture Trustee deems confidential, such reports shall not be filed in the public docket of the Court. Such reports shall include the name, address, and telephone number of each person who, Start Printed Page 30420during the preceding month, made an offer to acquire, expressed an interest in acquiring, entered into negotiations to acquire, or was contacted or made an inquiry about acquiring the Divestiture Assets, and shall describe in detail each contact with any such person. The Divestiture Trustee shall maintain full records of all efforts made to divest the Divestiture Assets.
H. If the Divestiture Trustee has not accomplished the divestiture ordered under this Final Judgment within six (6) months after its appointment, the Divestiture Trustee shall promptly file with the Court a report setting forth (1) the Divestiture Trustee's efforts to accomplish the required divestiture, (2) the reasons, in the Divestiture Trustee's judgment, why the required divestiture has not been accomplished, and (3) the Divestiture Trustee's recommendations. To the extent such reports contain information that the Divestiture Trustee deems confidential, such reports shall not be filed in the public docket of the Court. The Divestiture Trustee shall at the same time furnish such report to the Defendants and to the United States, which shall have the right to make additional recommendations consistent with the purpose of the trust. The Court thereafter shall enter such orders as it shall deem appropriate to carry out the purpose of the Final Judgment, which may, if necessary, include extending the trust and the term of the Divestiture Trustee's appointment by a period requested by the United States.
VII. Notice of Proposed Divestiture
A. Within two (2) business days following execution of a definitive divestiture agreement with an Acquirer other than Constellation, the Defendants or the Divestiture Trustee, whichever is then responsible for effecting the divestiture required herein, shall notify the United States of any proposed divestiture required by Section IV of this Final Judgment. If the Divestiture Trustee is responsible, it shall similarly notify Defendants. The notice shall set forth the details of the proposed divestiture and list the name, address, and telephone number of each person who offered or expressed an interest in or desire to acquire any ownership interest in the Divestiture Assets or, in the case of the Divestiture Trustee, any update of the information required to be provided under Section VI.G above.
B. Within fifteen (15) calendar days of receipt by the United States of such notice, the United States may request from Defendants, the proposed Acquirer, any other third party, or the Divestiture Trustee if applicable, additional information concerning the proposed divestiture, the proposed Acquirer, and any other potential Acquirer. Defendants and the Divestiture Trustee shall furnish any additional information requested within fifteen (15) calendar days of the receipt of the request, unless the parties shall otherwise agree.
C. Within thirty (30) calendar days after receipt of the notice or within twenty (20) calendar days after the United States has been provided the additional information requested from Defendants, the proposed Acquirer, any third party, and the Divestiture Trustee, whichever is later, the United States shall provide written notice to Defendants and the Divestiture Trustee, stating whether or not it objects to the proposed divestiture. If the United States provides written notice that it does not object, the divestiture may be consummated, subject only to Defendants' limited right to object to the sale under Section VI.D of this Final Judgment. Absent written notice that the United States does not object to the proposed Acquirer or upon objection by the United States, a divestiture proposed under Section VI shall not be consummated. Upon objection by Defendants under Section VI.D, a divestiture proposed under Section VI shall not be consummated unless approved by the Court.
VIII. Monitoring Trustee
A. Upon the filing of this Final Judgment, the United States may, in its sole discretion, appoint a Monitoring Trustee, subject to approval by the Court.
B. The Monitoring Trustee shall have the power and authority to monitor Defendants' compliance with the terms of this Final Judgment and the Hold Separate Stipulation and Order entered by this Court, and shall have such powers as this Court deems appropriate. The Monitoring Trustee shall be required to investigate and report on the Defendants' compliance with this Final Judgment and the Defendants' progress toward effectuating the purposes of this Final Judgment, including but not limited to:
1. The attainment of the construction milestones by the Acquirer as set forth in Section V.A, the reasons for any failure to meet such milestones, and recommended remedies for any such failure;
2. any breach or other problem that arises under the Transition Services Agreement, Interim Supply Agreement, or other agreement between Sellers and Acquirer that may affect the accomplishment of the purposes of this Final Judgment, the reasons for such breach or problem, and recommended remedies therefor; and
3. any breach or other concern regarding the accuracy of the representations made by ABI in sections 3.25 and 3.26 of the Stock Purchase Agreement, incorporated herein, or successor agreements thereto, and by Modelo in the Letter of Grupo Modelo, S.A.B. de C.V., incorporated herein as Exhibit C, and recommended remedies therefor.
C. Subject to Section VIII.E of this Final Judgment, the Monitoring Trustee may hire at the cost and expense of ABI, any consultants, accountants, attorneys, or other persons, who shall be solely accountable to the Monitoring Trustee, reasonably necessary in the Monitoring Trustee's judgment.
D. Defendants shall not object to actions taken by the Monitoring Trustee in fulfillment of the Monitoring Trustee's responsibilities under any Order of this Court on any ground other than the Monitoring Trustee's malfeasance. Any such objections by Defendants must be conveyed in writing to the United States and the Monitoring Trustee within ten (10) calendar days after the action taken by the Monitoring Trustee giving rise to the Defendants' objection.
E. The Monitoring Trustee shall serve at the cost and expense of ABI on such terms and conditions as the United States approves. The compensation of the Monitoring Trustee and any consultants, accountants, attorneys, and other persons retained by the Monitoring Trustee shall be on reasonable and customary terms commensurate with the individuals' experience and responsibilities. The Monitoring Trustee shall, within three (3) business days of hiring any consultants, accountants, attorneys, or other persons, provide written notice of such hiring and the rate of compensation to ABI.
F. The Monitoring Trustee shall have no responsibility or obligation for the operation of Defendants' businesses.
G. Defendants shall use their best efforts to assist the Monitoring Trustee in monitoring Defendants' compliance with their individual obligations under this Final Judgment and under the Hold Separate Stipulation and Order. The Monitoring Trustee and any consultants, accountants, attorneys, and other persons retained by the Monitoring Trustee shall have full and complete access to the personnel, books, records, and facilities relating to compliance with this Final Judgment, subject to reasonable protection for trade secret or other confidential research, development, or commercial Start Printed Page 30421information or any applicable privileges. Defendants shall take no action to interfere with or to impede the Monitoring Trustee's accomplishment of its responsibilities.
H. After its appointment, the Monitoring Trustee shall file reports every ninety (90) days, or more frequently as needed, with the United States, the Defendants and the Court setting forth the Defendants' efforts to comply with their individual obligations under this Final Judgment and under the Hold Separate Stipulation and Order. To the extent such reports contain information that the trustee deems confidential, such reports shall not be filed in the public docket of the Court.
I. The Monitoring Trustee shall serve until the divestiture of all the Divestiture Assets is finalized pursuant to either Section IV or Section VI of this Final Judgment and the Transition Services Agreement and the Interim Supply Agreement have expired and all other relief has been completed as defined in Section V.A.
Sellers shall not finance all or any part of any purchase made pursuant to Section IV or VI of this Final Judgment.
X. Hold Separate
Until the divestiture required by this Final Judgment has been accomplished, Defendants shall take all steps necessary to comply with the Hold Separate Stipulation and Order entered by this Court. Defendants shall take no action that would jeopardize the divestiture ordered by this Court.
A. Within twenty (20) calendar days of the filing of this proposed Final Judgment, and every thirty (30) calendar days thereafter until the divestiture has been completed under Section IV or VI, each Seller shall deliver to the United States an affidavit as to the fact and manner of its compliance with Section IV or VI of this Final Judgment. Each such affidavit shall include the name, address, and telephone number of each person who, during the preceding thirty (30) calendar days, made an offer to acquire, expressed an interest in acquiring, entered into negotiations to acquire, or was contacted or made an inquiry about acquiring, any interest in the Divestiture Assets, and shall describe in detail each contact with any such person during that period. Each such affidavit shall also include a description of the efforts Sellers have taken to solicit buyers for the Divestiture Assets, and to provide required information to prospective Acquirers, including the limitations, if any, on such information. Assuming the information set forth in the affidavit is true and complete, any objection by the United States to information provided by Sellers, including limitation on information, shall be made within fourteen (14) calendar days of receipt of such affidavit.
B. Within twenty (20) calendar days of the filing of this proposed Final Judgment, each Defendant shall deliver to the United States an affidavit that describes in reasonable detail all actions it has taken and all steps it has implemented on an ongoing basis to comply with Section X of this Final Judgment. Each Defendant shall deliver to the United States an affidavit describing any changes to the efforts and actions outlined in its earlier affidavits filed pursuant to this section within fifteen (15) calendar days after the change is implemented.
C. Defendants shall keep all records of all efforts made to preserve and divest the Divestiture Assets until one year after such divestiture has been completed.
XII. Notification of Future Transactions
A. Unless such transaction is otherwise subject to the reporting and waiting period requirements of the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976, as amended, 15 U.S.C. 18a (the “HSR Act”), ABI, without providing at least sixty (60) calendar days advance notification to the United States, shall not directly or indirectly acquire or license a Covered Interest in or from a Covered Entity; provided, however, that advance notification shall not be required for acquisitions of the type addressed in 16 CFR 802.1 and 802.9.
B. Any notification pursuant to Section XII.A above shall be provided to the United States in letter format, and shall identify the parties to the transaction, the assets being acquired or licensed, the value of the transaction, the seller's annual gross revenue from each brand or asset being acquired, and the identity of the current importer for any Beer being acquired that is brewed outside the United States.
C. All references to the HSR Act in this Final Judgment refer to the HSR Act as it exists at the time of the transaction or agreement and incorporate any subsequent amendments to the Act.
A. During the term of the Transition Services Agreement and the Interim Supply Agreement, Sellers shall implement and maintain reasonable procedures to prevent Acquirer Confidential Information from being disclosed by or through Sellers to those of Sellers' affiliates who are involved in the marketing, distribution, or sale of Beer in the United States, or to any other person who does not have a need to know the information.
B. Sellers shall, within ten (10) business days of the entry of the Hold Separate Stipulation and Order, submit to the United States a document setting forth in detail the procedures implemented to effect compliance with Section XIII.A of this Final Judgment. The United States shall notify Sellers within five (5) business days whether it approves of or rejects Sellers' compliance plan, in its sole discretion. In the event that Sellers' compliance plan is rejected, the reasons for the rejection shall be provided to Sellers and Sellers shall be given the opportunity to submit, within ten (10) business days of receiving the notice of rejection, a revised compliance plan. If the parties cannot agree on a compliance plan, the United States shall have the right to request that the Court rule on whether Sellers' proposed compliance plan is reasonable.
C. Defendants may at any time submit to the United States evidence relating to the actual operation of the firewall in support of a request to modify the firewall set forth in this Section XIII. In determining whether it would be appropriate for the United States to consent to modify the firewall, the United States, in its sole discretion, shall consider the need to protect Acquirer Confidential Information and the impact the firewall has had on Sellers' ability to efficiently provide services, supplies and products under the Transition Services Agreement and the Interim Supply Agreement.
D. Sellers and the Acquirer shall:
1. furnish a copy of this Final Judgment and related Competitive Impact Statement within sixty (60) days of entry of the Final Judgment to (a) each officer, director, and any other employee that will receive Acquirer Confidential Information; (b) each officer, director, and any other employee that is involved in (i) any contact with the other companies that are parties to the Transition Services Agreement and Interim Supply Agreement, (ii) making decisions under the Transition Services Agreement or the Interim Supply Agreement, (iii) making decisions regarding ABI's Distributor Incentive Programs, or (iv) making decisions regarding the treatment of Crown by either ABI-Owned Distributors, or by any other Distributor in which ABI acquires a Start Printed Page 30422majority interest after the date of the divestiture contemplated herein; and (c) any successor to a person designated in Section XIII.D.1(a) or (b);
2. annually brief each person designated in Section XIII.D.1 on the meaning and requirements of this Final Judgment and the antitrust laws; and
3. obtain from each person designated in Section XIII.D.1, within sixty (60) days of that person's receipt of the Final Judgment, a certification that he or she (i) has read and, to the best of his or her ability, understands and agrees to abide by the terms of this Final Judgment; (ii) is not aware of any violation of the Final Judgment that has not been reported to the company; and (iii) understands that any person's failure to comply with this Final Judgment may result in an enforcement action for civil or criminal contempt of court against each Defendant and/or any person who violates this Final Judgment.
XIV. Compliance Inspection
A. For the purposes of determining or securing compliance with this Final Judgment, or of determining whether the Final Judgment should be modified or vacated, and subject to any legally recognized privilege, from time to time authorized representatives of the United States Department of Justice Antitrust Division (“Antitrust Division”), including consultants and other persons retained by the United States, shall, upon written request of an authorized representative of the Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Antitrust Division, and on reasonable notice to Defendants, be permitted:
1. Access during Defendants' office hours to inspect and copy, or at the option of the United States, to require Defendants to provide hard copy or electronic copies of, all books, ledgers, accounts, records, data, and documents in the possession, custody, or control of Defendants, relating to any matters contained in this Final Judgment; and
2. to interview, either informally or on the record, Defendants' officers, employees, or agents, who may have their individual counsel present, regarding such matters. The interviews shall be subject to the reasonable convenience of the interviewee and without restraint or interference by Defendants.
B. Upon the written request of an authorized representative of the Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Antitrust Division, Defendants shall submit written reports or respond to written interrogatories, under oath if requested, relating to any of the matters contained in this Final Judgment as may be requested. Written reports authorized under this paragraph may, at the sole discretion of the United States, require Defendants to conduct, at Defendants' cost, an independent audit or analysis relating to any of the matters contained in this Final Judgment.
C. No information or documents obtained by the means provided in this section shall be divulged by the United States to any person other than an authorized representative of the executive branch of the United States, except in the course of legal proceedings to which the United States is a party (including grand jury proceedings), or for the purpose of securing compliance with this Final Judgment, or as otherwise required by law.
D. If at the time information or documents are furnished by Defendants to the United States, Defendants represent and identify in writing the material in any such information or documents to which a claim of protection may be asserted under the Protective Order, then the United States shall give Defendants ten (10) calendar days notice prior to divulging such material in any legal proceeding (other than a grand jury proceeding).
XV. No Reacquisition
Sellers may not reacquire any part of the Divestiture Assets during the term of this Final Judgment.
The failure of any party to the Sub-License Agreement to perform any remaining obligations of such party under the Sub-License Agreement shall not excuse performance by the other party of its obligations thereunder. Accordingly, for purposes of Section 365(n) of the Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1978, as amended, and codified as 11 U.S.C. 101 et seq. (the “Bankruptcy Code”) or any analogous provision under any law of any foreign or domestic, federal, state, provincial, local, municipal or other governmental jurisdiction relating to bankruptcy, insolvency or reorganization (“Foreign Bankruptcy Law”), (a) the Sub-License Agreement will not be deemed to be an executory contract, and (b) if for any reason the Sub-License Agreement is deemed to be an executory contract, the licenses granted under the Sub-License Agreement shall be deemed to be licenses to rights in “intellectual property” as defined in Section 101 of the Bankruptcy Code or any analogous provision of Foreign Bankruptcy Law and Constellation or any other Acquirer shall be protected in the continued enjoyment of its right under the Sub-License Agreement including, without limitation, if Constellation or another Acquirer so elects, the protection conferred upon licensees under 11 U.S.C. Section 365(n) of the Bankruptcy Code or any analogous provision of Foreign Bankruptcy Law.
XVII. Retention of Jurisdiction
This Court retains jurisdiction to enable any party to this Final Judgment to apply to this Court at any time for further orders and directions as may be necessary or appropriate to carry out or construe this Final Judgment, to modify any of its provisions, to ensure and enforce compliance, and to punish violations of its provisions.
XVIII. Expiration of Final Judgment
Unless this Court grants an extension, this Final Judgment shall expire ten (10) years from the date of its entry.
XIX. Public Interest Determination
Entry of this Final Judgment is in the public interest. The parties have complied with the requirements of the Antitrust Procedures and Penalties Act, 15 U.S.C. 16, including making copies available to the public of this Final Judgment, the Competitive Impact Statement, and any comments thereon and the United States' responses to comments. Based upon the record before the Court, which includes the Competitive Impact Statement and any comments and response to comments filed with the Court, entry of this Final Judgment is in the public interest.
Court approval subject to procedures of the Antitrust Procedures and Penalties Act, 15 U.S.C. 16.
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1. Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, Crown is a 50/50 joint venture between Modelo and Constellation. Crown sells and markets Modelo's beers in the United States as the exclusive importer of Modelo beers.Back to Citation
2. As defined by the SymphonyIRI Group, a market research firm, whose data is commonly used by industry participants.Back to Citation
3. Even if these concentration measures are modified to reflect ABI's current partial ownership of Modelo, the effective levels of concentration would still support a presumption of illegality.Back to Citation
4. Capitalized terms in this Competitive Impact Statement are defined in the proposed Final Judgment.Back to Citation
5. The Piedras Negras Brewery is owned by a subsidiary of Modelo—Compañia Cervecera de Coahuila S.A. de C.V., which will be transferred as part of the divestiture.Back to Citation
6. As discussed further below and in Section III.B herein, Constellation will be joined as a settling Defendant because it will be required, as a condition of acquiring the Divestiture Assets, to complete an expansion of the Piedras Negras Brewery to serve current and future United States demand.Back to Citation
7. The sale of the Divestiture Assets to Constellation (or another acquirer) will eliminate ABI's minority right and sharing of profits in Modelo's U.S. business.Back to Citation
8. Azulitas are 8 ounce cans of Bud Light that compete directly with Modelo's “Coronitas.”Back to Citation
9. The licensed brands include all the brands that Modelo currently offers (through its distributor Crown) in the United States: Corona, Corona Light, Modelo Especial, Negra Modelo, Modelo Light, Pacifico, and Victoria. The license also includes certain brands not yet offered in the United States, but that Constellation would be free to launch here: Pacifico Light, Barrilito, and León.Back to Citation
10. The proposed Final Judgment also provides that the United States may extend the time for ABI to accomplish the divestiture by up to 60 days, in its sole discretion.Back to Citation
11. The company is Servicios Modelo de Coahuila, S.A. de C.V., a subsidiary of Grupo Modelo with its headquarters in Coahuila, Mexico.Back to Citation
12. The 2004 amendments substituted “shall” for “may” in directing relevant factors for court to consider and amended the list of factors to focus on competitive considerations and to address potentially ambiguous judgment terms. Compare 15 U.S.C. 16(e) (2004), with 15 U.S.C. § 16(e)(1) (2006); see also SBC Commc'ns, 489 F. Supp. 2d at 11 (concluding that the 2004 amendments “effected minimal changes” to Tunney Act review).Back to Citation
13. Cf. BNS, 858 F.2d at 464 (holding that the court's “ultimate authority under the [APPA] is limited to approving or disapproving the consent decree”); United States v. Gillette Co., 406 F. Supp. 713, 716 (D. Mass. 1975) (noting that, in this way, the court is constrained to “look at the overall picture not hypercritically, nor with a microscope, but with an artist's reducing glass”). See generally Microsoft, 56 F.3d at 1461 (discussing whether “the remedies [obtained in the decree are] so inconsonant with the allegations charged as to fall outside of the `reaches of the public interest'”).Back to Citation
14. See United States v. Enova Corp., 107 F. Supp. 2d 10, 17 (D.D.C. 2000) (noting that the “Tunney Act expressly allows the court to make its public interest determination on the basis of the competitive impact statement and response to comments alone”); United States v. Mid-Am. Dairymen, Inc., 1977-1 Trade Cas. (CCH) ¶ 61,508, at 71,980 (W.D. Mo. 1977) (“Absent a showing of corrupt failure of the government to discharge its duty, the Court, in making its public interest finding, should . . . carefully consider the explanations of the government in the competitive impact statement and its responses to comments in order to determine whether those explanations are reasonable under the circumstances.”); S. Rep. No. 93-298, 93d Cong., 1st Sess., at 6 (1973) (“Where the public interest can be meaningfully evaluated simply on the basis of briefs and oral arguments, that is the approach that should be utilized.”).Back to Citation
[FR Doc. 2013-11832 Filed 5-21-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4410-11-P