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Belgium to investigate beer price increases

Belgium's economy minister has asked the country's competition authorities to investigate the announced price hikes of beer producers Anheuser-Busch InBev and Heineken's Alken Maes.

The request comes days after both companies said they would increase their wholesale prices for canned and bottled beers in Belgium, citing increasing costs for energy, staff and raw materials.

AB InBev said it would increase its prices from March 1, 2012 by 5.9 percent, while Alken Maes said it would up its prices by about 6 percent from March 12.

"We will ask the competition authorities to investigate whether this is a case of unfair competition or price fixing," a spokeswoman for economy minister Johan Vande Lanotte said on Thursday.

AB InBev said it had not consulted its competitors about the price increases.

"Information about our price and cost structure is sensitive and is never shared or discussed with competitors, in line with laws regulating commercial practices and competition," AB Inbev Belgium said in an emailed statement.

Belgium's competition authorities were not available for comment. (Reporting By Robert-Jan Bartunek)

30 Dec. 2011

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