Court reaches split decision on SABMiller deal vote

Budweiser brewer AB InBev is bidding to take over Bulmers cider maker SABMiller. Picture: Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images

Budweiser brewer AB InBev is bidding to take over Bulmers cider maker SABMiller. Picture: Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images

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A UK court has backed a move to split SABMiller’s shareholders into two groups ahead of a vote on its £79 billion takeover by Budweiser brewer Anheuser Busch InBev (AB InBev).

Two of SABMiller’s largest shareholders, Altria Group and Bevco, will be split into a separate group from other SABMiller investors when the deal goes to a vote on 28 September. Together Altria and Bevco own 40 per cent of SABMiller. The vote requires 75 per cent approval from shareholders, and the court ruling means each group will have to reach that threshold to approve the deal.

The marriage of the world’s biggest brewers was agreed last year with an initial offer of £44 per share in cash for general shareholders and a discounted cash-and-shares offer aimed at Altria and Bevco to help them avoid a large tax bill.

READ MORE: SABMiller takes a hit from Africa and AB InBev deal

However, some other institutional shareholders voiced objections when the cash offer was hit by the sharp fall in sterling following Britain’s Brexit vote in June.

Both brewers’ boards have recommended AB InBev’s final offer of £45, increased in July the wake of the shareholder disquiet.

Investors including Aberdeen Asset Management and hedge fund Elliott were among those to raise concerns about the deal.

Aberdeen has called the offer “unacceptable”, saying it would vote against the takeover but welcomed the proposal for a shareholder vote split.

The fund manager had said in July: “We strongly welcome the board’s decision that Altria and Bevco should be treated as a separate class of shareholder.

“This acknowledges the reality of the situation and will help to ensure that the views of the rest of the investor base have due weight.”

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