SABMiller, Coca-Cola agree to conditions given by South Africa to approve merger

SABMiller and Coca-Cola have agreed with the South African government to invest 800 million rand ($54 million) to support small South African businesses in order to win antitrust approval for a deal to combine their soft-drink operations.

“The agreement between the merger parties and the South African government is expected to expedite the approval process,” SABMiller said in a statement on Wednesday.

Two development funds of 400 million rand each will be invested in agriculture development and development of retailers owned by people discriminated against during apartheid.

SABMiller and Coca-Cola had agreed in November 2014 to merge to create Africa’s largest soft drinks bottler. However, they have found it difficult to gain anti-trust approval as Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel’s consideration of public interest issues such as how the merger would affect small businesses, supplier industries, employment and investment. The Competition Act required the minister to consider public interest issues in mergers and advise the competition authorities accordingly.

The new company will be headquartered in South Africa as part of the government agreement, SABMiller said.

A Competition Tribunal hearing into the deal is scheduled to start May 9.