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Antitrust suit against Inbev, Anheuser-Busch fails

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The latest quest by 10 Missouri beer consumers who tried to block the $52 billion takeover of U.S. beer giant Anheuser-Busch by Belgium-based InBev fell flat Wednesday when an appeals court refused to resurrect their antitrust lawsuit.

A three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a federal judge’s August 2009 ruling that threw out the lawsuit, which claimed the 2008 merger that created the world’s largest brewer would diminish competition and raise beer prices.

It was not immediately clear whether the plaintiffs planned more appeals. Messages left with several of their attorneys weren’t returned Wednesday.

Federal regulators scrutinized the merger on antitrust grounds but ultimately signed off on it with few caveats. The deal was consummated in November 2008, two months after the group of self-described beer consumers sued to block InBev’s purchase of St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch, the maker of Budweiser.

The lawsuit initially sought to block InBev’s acquisition of Anheuser-Busch — which at the time controlled nearly half of the U.S. beer market — by casting the deal as a “plain violation” of federal antitrust law, among other things.

If the deal went through, the lawsuit insisted, “the beer market in the United States would be controlled by absentee foreign owners (while) consumer welfare and choice and the benefits of competition would be substantially lessened and tend toward the creation of a monopoly.”

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