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Old 02-14-2013, 03:46 PM   #1
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An Example of Regulation Run Amok

http://professional.wsj.com/article/...NewsCollection

Belgium brewer AB InBev (merger of Anheuser-Busch and InBev) has agreed to forfeit about 4.5 billion dollars worth of assets in order to complete a 20 billion dollar takeover of Grupo Modelo, a large Mexican based brewer.

The key argument that Justice Department lawyers used to hold up the merger? Competition. They argued that such an acquisition would be anti-competitive because AB InBev could then jack up prices on both Corona and Budweiser.

Beer is not a natural monopoly. And the US domestic beer market is undergoing a change in which the large dominant brands (Budweiser and its sub-brands, Coors, Miller) are facing increasing competition with smaller breweries and microbreweries.

You guys might shrug your shoulders and say "whatever", but these are real issues for the companies and investors involved in these deals. When the Justice Department or any various Federal regulatory agency can block the sale of assets from one company to another, it represents a very real problem for the economy. It's one of the reasons why this economic recovery has been so incredibly weak.

We've seen Justice and the FCC block AT&T's offer for T-Mobile. The NLRB blocked an expansion of Boeing's factories in South Carolina. The EPA is still stalling the Keystone XL pipeline project.

Collectively, these actions have become a drag on the economy. And it's one of the key reasons why many CEOs, investors, and small business owners say that the Obama Administration has been very unfriendly towards business.
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Old 02-14-2013, 03:56 PM   #2
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But... but... but.. Obama did good.

On a serious note, this, OF COURSE, is not all a result of Obama or his immediate cohorts. But it is a result of the government expansion that he (and W) strive towards full speed ahead. Many true conservatives speak of the fourth branch of the federal government being the regulatory branch... if you think about the powers that these paper pushers have over our economy, it's just mind-boggling. Whether it's regulating trade, commerce, energy, whatever.. they are literally driving the economy and, in this case, stalling it.

People will look at this and assume that it's not a big deal.. after all, companies will now continue to compete and businesses will go on.. that's true. But it also is indicative of the reality that the government is, in many ways, stalling progress... progress that inevitably leads to better markets, more productive economy, more jobs, etc.

And meanwhile, those supporting more regulation and government expansion will cheer on further expansion of the federal government (and government jobs)... which only serves to further messes like the one above.
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Old 02-14-2013, 03:58 PM   #3
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Do you think the US Antitrust Reg's are directly influenced by Obama and his administration? This seems like business as usual for them (the reg's) for the past 10, or so, years. It's also pretty typical for them, as far as I can remember, to be a bit more hypersensitive during a down/recovering economy.
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Old 02-14-2013, 04:14 PM   #4
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Do you think the US Antitrust Reg's are directly influenced by Obama and his administration? This seems like business as usual for them (the reg's) for the past 10, or so, years. It's also pretty typical for them, as far as I can remember, to be a bit more hypersensitive during a down/recovering economy.
I'm not suggesting that key players from the White House (or even Obama himself) are telling them to approve/block certain actions by businesses, but the President does appoint an awful lot of bureaucrats into head roles at various agencies and departments, and he has to be mindful of the donors and activists who carried him to the Presidency.

To be sure, am I absolutely positive that the Bush Administration would have had a more friendly posture towards business? No. But I think it's a fair assumption to think that projects such as Boeing's plant in SC or TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline wouldn't have been delayed by regulatory agencies.

As for this particular case? I could see Bush's Justice Department going the same route that Obama's Justice Department, but it's hard to say. When it comes to beer or telecommunications (the sale and auction of spectrum, for instance), I don't think either President would have differed significantly.

I'm not necessarily putting the blame squarely on the Obama Administration. Regulatory creep is an ever present force. But I do think that this is something that the President is perfectly comfortable with and there are definite issues where his (or Eric Holder's) discretion has erred on the side of government power.

The current regulations around the sale and distribution of beer and spirits is absolutely ridiculous. Although this is more of an issue at the state level than the Federal. But this is the first major case of regulatory zeal at the Federal level for the alcohol industry that I can remember. It's worrisome when something that usually gets ****ed up at a state level then goes on to become ****ed up at the Federal level.
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Old 02-14-2013, 04:52 PM   #5
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Do you think the US Antitrust Reg's are directly influenced by Obama and his administration? This seems like business as usual for them (the reg's) for the past 10, or so, years. It's also pretty typical for them, as far as I can remember, to be a bit more hypersensitive during a down/recovering economy.
Same argument as another thread. What did Obama DO to BETTER the situation? The man who does nothing is just as guilty as the men who created the problem. I will blame Obama now, and will blame the next guy when they take over. The president is supposed to solve the problems in the country, not perpetuate them.
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Old 02-14-2013, 05:02 PM   #6
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on the surface, I agree that this sounds absurd. But perhaps there is more to the story and we are only seeing one side of it from this source.
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Old 02-14-2013, 09:17 PM   #7
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Same argument as another thread. What did Obama DO to BETTER the situation? The man who does nothing is just as guilty as the men who created the problem. I will blame Obama now, and will blame the next guy when they take over. The president is supposed to solve the problems in the country, not perpetuate them.
I'm just tired of Obama defense 101 : compare Obama to W...

As if W, who MANY acknowledge screwed up A LOT, is somehow a benchmark.

It's like a cr@ppy chef saying "well it might taste terrible but it's better than horse sh*t and celebrating on that.
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Old 02-14-2013, 09:25 PM   #8
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I'm just tired of Obama defense 101 : compare Obama to W...

As if W, who MANY acknowledge screwed up A LOT, is somehow a benchmark.

It's like a cr@ppy chef saying "well it might taste terrible but it's better than horse sh*t and celebrating on that.
It goes much deeper than that. Seeing the cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias among those who saw nothing wrong with Bush, but think the end of America is upon us with Obama is hilariously sad. It's just as sad as every liberal who thought Bush was the end of times, but sees nothing wrong with Obama.

The tired old song of "well, I disagreed with Bush" is tired because those people sure were the extreme minority of Republicans for those 8 years.
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Old 02-15-2013, 12:44 AM   #9
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It goes much deeper than that. Seeing the cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias among those who saw nothing wrong with Bush, but think the end of America is upon us with Obama is hilariously sad. It's just as sad as every liberal who thought Bush was the end of times, but sees nothing wrong with Obama.

The tired old song of "well, I disagreed with Bush" is tired because those people sure were the extreme minority of Republicans for those 8 years.
You can't judge a President while he is office, at least you shouldn't but we all do. The world has changed so much in 2001 that Bush & Obama to a certain extent are making a lot of this up as they go along. Both had there agendas.

Right now I feel 4 years after Bush left office looking back the Majority of the Bush Presidency was bad. Obama's will most likely be worse. Two presidents from diffrent parties allowed to run amuck for two terms with no clear detail, budget or direction execpt throw money at problems. Right now the biggest diffrence between both guys is that one lowered taxes, & one raised them.

I hope the Key Stone pipeline goes though. It's a national security issue. We as a nation need to become a dominate force in the worlds energy policy if we are too remain a key player in the world.

As a T-mo customer I was happy when the At&T merger fell though. At&t made it clear they weren't honoring T-mo's grandfathered contracts it would have cost me more money down the line.
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Old 02-15-2013, 07:24 AM   #10
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Oh, please. MillerCoors and InBev are strategically NOT competing and raising prices in step with one another as they please.

From 2009: "Both Anheuser-Busch InBev - purveyor of the president's preferred brew, Bud Light - and MillerCoors, a joint venture between SABMiller and Molson Coors, are raising prices at the same time, during a recession, and while beer demand is slumping. With an 80 percent market share between them, it almost begs for an antitrust review of the industry." http://www.nbcnews.com/id/32643705/n.../#.UR4022cyqyE

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But... but... but.. Obama did good.

On a serious note, this, OF COURSE, is not all a result of Obama or his immediate cohorts. But it is a result of the government expansion that he (and W) strive towards full speed ahead. Many true conservatives speak of the fourth branch of the federal government being the regulatory branch... if you think about the powers that these paper pushers have over our economy, it's just mind-boggling. Whether it's regulating trade, commerce, energy, whatever.. they are literally driving the economy and, in this case, stalling it.

People will look at this and assume that it's not a big deal.. after all, companies will now continue to compete and businesses will go on.. that's true. But it also is indicative of the reality that the government is, in many ways, stalling progress... progress that inevitably leads to better markets, more productive economy, more jobs, etc.

And meanwhile, those supporting more regulation and government expansion will cheer on further expansion of the federal government (and government jobs)... which only serves to further messes like the one above.
On and on about the same. Oh, how things have changed! Poor us! The government is strangling us!

Give me a break about how things are getting "worse". You guys would have screamed bloody murder in the 50's and 60's about the evil communist US government:

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"The DOJ has already dismantled a number of beer deals in the past. Anheuser was the target of one of the first cases in 1958, when it purchased Miami-based American Brewing Company. The government forced it to divest the purchase and refrain from buying any other brewery for the next five years without court approval.

A similar verdict was reached in the case of then-No. 2 Schlitz, which was challenged in court in 1966 after having bought California's third-largest brewer, Burgermeister, in 1961 and a 40 percent stake in Canada's Labatt in 1964. The company was ordered to sell off both holdings and refrain from acquiring new plants anywhere in the country for the next 10 years.

In 1959, the DOJ sued to prevent the merger of Pabst, then the 10th-largest brewer, with the 18th-biggest, Blatz. The suit was first filed in the District Court of Milwaukee but wound up in the Supreme Court, which in 1966 ruled the deal was anti-competitive and forced Pabst to divest Blatz. The justices' opinion noted that "if not stopped, this decline in the number of separate competitors and this rise in the share of the market controlled by the larger beer manufacturers are bound to lead to greater and greater concentration of the beer industry into fewer and fewer hands."
Oh, yeah! Government these days is soooo tyrannical!

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Do you think the US Antitrust Reg's are directly influenced by Obama and his administration? This seems like business as usual for them (the reg's) for the past 10, or so, years. It's also pretty typical for them, as far as I can remember, to be a bit more hypersensitive during a down/recovering economy.
See above. It's not the past 10 years. If anything, government has become too lenient with large companies. See above for how they used to handle this sort of thing in the 50's and 60's. I know. Horrible economic times.

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The current regulations around the sale and distribution of beer and spirits is absolutely ridiculous. Although this is more of an issue at the state level than the Federal. But this is the first major case of regulatory zeal at the Federal level for the alcohol industry that I can remember. It's worrisome when something that usually gets ****ed up at a state level then goes on to become ****ed up at the Federal level.
See above. In blue.
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Old 02-15-2013, 08:26 AM   #11
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it's obviously a conspiracy. President Obama doesn't want his Buddy Light to cost more, he's probably keeping prices on it artificially low so he can get faded on the cheap at the White House
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Old 02-15-2013, 09:41 AM   #12
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[QUOTE='busa;15165260]Oh, please. MillerCoors and InBev are strategically NOT competing and raising prices in step with one another as they please.

From 2009: "Both Anheuser-Busch InBev - purveyor of the president's preferred brew, Bud Light - and MillerCoors, a joint venture between SABMiller and Molson Coors, are raising prices at the same time, during a recession, and while beer demand is slumping. With an 80 percent market share between them, it almost begs for an antitrust review of the industry." http://www.nbcnews.com/id/32643705/n.../#.UR4022cyqyE
80% of the market share between 3 competitors? So what? That's 80% of the beer market, which is declining by volume (as craft beers gain more popularity and as people switch to wine, liquor, etc). The fact that people are considering that there exists monopolies on the selling and distribution of alcohol is ridiculous.

This is not some cutting edge industry providing a strategic service to the economy. Beer and alcohol have been around for thousands of years and it's quite cheap and easy to make your own. There is nothing to be served by preventing AB Inbev from increasing its ownership stake in Modelo from 50 to 100%.

Quote:
On and on about the same. Oh, how things have changed! Poor us! The government is strangling us!

Give me a break about how things are getting "worse". You guys would have screamed bloody murder in the 50's and 60's about the evil communist US government:
Well, we're really resting on the "things are, for the most part, fine" argument and if we keep doing that until things are, for the most part, not fine, this country is gonna be in big trouble. Trust busting of beer companies, of all things, is a pretty stupid waste of time for a Federal prosecutor.

And, yeah, the Federal government was too large during the 50s and 60s. If you look at all the crazy and coercive **** they did back then, it's pretty clear that the government and society we have today is much better than the one we had back then.

Whipping up fake nostalgia for the post-war economic boom is ridiculous. Especially when you consider the fact that the government actually encouraged corporate oligarchies.

Quote:
See above. In blue.
I should have clarified. The first major Federal regulation of beer companies when I started caring about policy.
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Old 02-15-2013, 09:53 AM   #13
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80% of the market share between 3 competitors? So what? That's 80% of the beer market, which is declining by volume (as craft beers gain more popularity and as people switch to wine, liquor, etc).
Is craft beer not a beer? You seem to exclude it from the "beer market"

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The fact that people are considering that there exists monopolies on the selling and distribution of alcohol is ridiculous.

This is not some cutting edge industry providing a strategic service to the economy. Beer and alcohol have been around for thousands of years and it's quite cheap and easy to make your own. There is nothing to be served by preventing AB Inbev from increasing its ownership stake in Modelo from 50 to 100%.
It's not about simply making and selling beer. It's about market strategy. From the Chicago Times: The DOJ had said that when the big two raised prices, the smaller Modelo often did not follow and took market share. http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2...o-carlos-brito

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And, yeah, the Federal government was too large during the 50s and 60s. If you look at all the crazy and coercive **** they did back then, it's pretty clear that the government and society we have today is much better than the one we had back then.
OP doesn't strike that tone.

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I should have clarified. The first major Federal regulation of beer companies when I started caring about policy.
That would change a lot of threads, wouldn't it.
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Old 02-15-2013, 10:05 AM   #14
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Is craft beer not a beer? You seem to exclude it from the "beer market"
My point is you don't even need to drink beer. You have thousands of alternatives. Overall beer consumption is actually decreasing. Craft beers are gaining more and more share. This is not a market that has a compelling antitrust case because, quite frankly, it doesn't matter whether the beer market has a lot of competitors or not. One thing we do know is that it DOES have a lot of competitors (not to mention even more substitutes and substitute competitors).

Quote:
It's not about simply making and selling beer. It's about market strategy. From the Chicago Times: The DOJ had said that when the big two raised prices, the smaller Modelo often did not follow and took market share. http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2...o-carlos-brito
So some other beer maker who doesn't raise prices can start taking more share. I don't see the problem.

Quote:
OP doesn't strike that tone.
I wasn't talking about the Federal government in the 50s or 60s in my original post.

The fact that you're using an argument around price hikes kind of illustrates how ****ed up a case this is. When did it become such a huge problem for companies to raise the prices of their goods? Especially in a market that is not remotely strategic nor inelastic?
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Old 02-15-2013, 10:12 AM   #15
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The fact that you're using an argument around price hikes kind of illustrates how ****ed up a case this is. When did it become such a huge problem for companies to raise the prices of their goods? Especially in a market that is not remotely strategic nor inelastic?
They can raise the price of their own goods, but a collusion of the world's largest beer producers to raise prices in concert is not the same thing. I don't see a problem with preventing companies from acquiring companies solely or even partially for the purpose of price control.
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Old 02-15-2013, 10:29 AM   #16
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Old 02-15-2013, 11:08 AM   #17
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They can raise the price of their own goods, but a collusion of the world's largest beer producers to raise prices in concert is not the same thing. I don't see a problem with preventing companies from acquiring companies solely or even partially for the purpose of price control.
The thing is, you can't really call it collusion. These kind of companies face a hundred different forms of pricing pressure.

Let's say a brewing company locks itself into a price they pay for grain for 4 years. During the intervening time, the spot price for grain increases by 50%. So when the contract for grain delivery is up for renewal, it has to go up, increasing the costs for that one particular company.

These measures against price volatility are used by every beer company. And each company's contracts get locked in for various periods of time at various prices. When one major company has to renegotiate their contract and is forced to raise prices at the retail side as a result, that gives an opportunity for other companies to either match the price hike or keep prices steady in an attempt to poach share.

That isn't collusion. That is simply an opportunity to exploit another company's strategy timeline. It just happens to look like collusion.

But for the sake of argument, let's say there is collusion involved. Who cares? It's beer. This is not a strategic market. There is no national interest involved. The price that the government pays in blocking a merger of beer companies is greater than the price of any perceived anti-competitive actions of the newly merged company.

I'm not saying that we face the end of the world of Justice ultimately gets its way and blocks the merger of AB Inbev and Modelo. But these kinds of cases happen in every industry and the net result is that our economy is less dynamic than it could be. We pay a price for stasis, assuming that the status quo is preferable to a changed state of affairs.

Our economy is lackluster and our labor market is still in crisis. Companies have a ton of cash on their balance sheets but if the government keeps placing restrictions on how firms spend it, we're not going to see a robust recovery fueling an employment boom any time soon.
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Old 02-15-2013, 12:04 PM   #18
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Who cares? It's beer.
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Old 02-15-2013, 02:34 PM   #19
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Who cares? It's beer.
I guess coming from someone who drinks wine coolers it doesn't matter now does it? :p
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Old 02-15-2013, 02:35 PM   #20
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I care about this to the extent that it adds or subtracts jobs in my home city since AB/Inbev has a huge presence here. At this point I don't see it really impacting things either way.

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I guess coming from someone who drinks wine coolers it doesn't matter now does it? :p
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