The world's biggest beer maker clinched a deal Tuesday to take over its nearest rival in a bid to stave off the megabrewers' most serious problems: the surge in popularity of craft brews and weakening sales in the rich markets of the United States and Europe.
SABMiller accepted in principle a takeover bid worth $106 billion from Anheuser-Busch InBev in a deal that seeks strength in size. The combined company would control nearly a third of the global market.
Belgium-based AB InBev, already the world's largest brewer, makes Budweiser, Corona, Stella Artois and Beck's.
Also in the AB InBev portfolio is craft brewer Blue Point Brewing Co. The Patchogue company was acquired by Anheuser-Busch InBev in February 2014.
SABMiller, based in London, has Miller Genuine Draft, Peroni and Milwaukee's Best among its brands, which number about 200.
Amid the big brewers' consolidation, Luciano Pascucci, manager at Glen Cove Beer Distributors, said prices charged to distributors have been climbing.
"I'm seeing prices getting sky high," he said. "Some beers cost more money than wine."
AB InBev's determination to close the deal after five attempts shows how established beer brands know they have to act to adapt to shifting global tastes.
In wealthy countries, people are turning to locally brewed beers or other drinks such as wine. In the United States, craft beer sales account for 10 percent of beer volumes, compared with virtually nothing a few years ago. The same could soon apply in Europe, said Giulio Lombardi, senior director at Fitch Ratings.
In 2014, craft beer sales in the United States climbed 17.6 percent by volume, according to the Brewers Association, while beer sales overall edged up 0.5 percent.
The sheer size of the deal, however, is likely to invite resistance from regulators amid concerns that the merger could stifle competition. In the United States, the deal is widely expected to require the sale of Miller's stable of beers.
With Ken Schachter