Rival Brazilian brewers Cervejaria Brahma and Antarctica Paulista agreed to merge in a stock swap worth about $3.94 billion. Brahma and Antarctica would form a powerhouse with annual sales of about $5.8 billion that plans to expand in South America and set up an affiliated company in the U.S., the companies said. The combined company would be the world's third-largest brewery, after Anheuser-Busch Cos. of the United States and the Netherlands' Heineken, in terms of volume of beer production and the world's fifth-largest beverage company by volume. The new company would be known as Companhia de Bebidas das Americas, or AmBev. Brahma President Magim Rodriguez, whose firm is almost three times as big as Antarctica in terms of sales, will head the new company, which has 17,000 employees. The transaction is subject to review by antitrust regulators. The creation of AmBev would mean the end of Brahma's partnership with Miller Brewing Co., a unit of Philip Morris Cos., and Antarctica's partnership with Anheuser-Busch. Anheuser-Busch said it would sell its 5% stake in Antarctica to the company, opting not to complete an agreement to increase its stake to 30% by 2002.
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