AB InBev launches £69.7bn SABMiller bid

Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s largest brewer, launched its $106 billion (£69.7bn) offer for rival SABMiller yesterday, and agreed to sell the latter’s stake in American venture Miller­Coors to help secure regulatory approval.
Anheuser-Busch InBev launched its £69.7bn offer for rival SABMiller yesterday. Picture: APAnheuser-Busch InBev launched its £69.7bn offer for rival SABMiller yesterday. Picture: AP
Anheuser-Busch InBev launched its £69.7bn offer for rival SABMiller yesterday. Picture: AP

The takeover will be one of the biggest pieces of industry consolidation in corporate history, uniting the number one and number two players. AB InBev said the deal would yield $1.4bn (£921 million) of cost-savings.

The suitor also said it had agreed to sell the target’s 58 per cent holding in stateside joint venture MillerCoors to the venture’s other shareholder, Molson Coors, for $12bn.

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The merger will create a business producing nearly one in three beers sold globally, combining AB InBev’s Budweiser, Stella Artois and Corona brands with SABMiller’s Peroni, Grolsch and Pilsner Urguell.

SABMiller’s board provisionally accepted the takeover last month. Carlos Brito, chief executive of AB InBev, said yesterday the deal will build the world’s “first truly global brewer”.

Brito said: “It has long been our dream to build the best beer company, bringing people together for a better world, and we believe this combination represents a step change for our business and our journey towards that goal.”

Alan Clark, chief executive of SABMiller, said the group’s “next chapter will bring new opportunities for exceptional success”.

The deal is expected to go through in the second half of 2016, if it is accepted by investors and cleared by regulators and shareholders.

AB InBev has a 155,000-strong global workforce and has $47.1bn of revenues. SABMiller employs 69,000 people in more than 80 countries and has global annual sales of more than $26bn.

Cost-cutting following the deal will see support functions trimmed where they overlap, particularly in creating one corporate headquarters and overhauling regional head offices, AB InBev said.

Around 35 per cent of annual cost savings will come from making changes in this area, but AB InBev said it expected that “key members of SABMiller’s management team and employees would play a significant role in the combined group”.

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The final terms of the deal comes nearly two months after SABMiller first confirmed an approach from AB InBev.

The suitor sweetened its offer a number of times before ­SABMiller agreed to the £44-a-share sale price, while the City’s Takeover Panel also ­granted the brewers three extensions to the deadline for AB InBev to make a formal bid or walk away.

Analysts said yesterday the combination would dwarf the other two remaining major players in international brewing, Dutch group Heineken and Denmark’s Carlsberg.

Those groups combined to carve up Edinburgh-based Scottish & Newcastle Breweries (S&N) in a joint takeover bid at the height of the financial crash, which included Heineken getting control of S&N’s British operations and Carlsberg taking over Baltic Beverages Holdings, its Russian arm.

AB InBev is already the biggest brewer in the US, Brazil and Mexico, three of the top four beer markets in terms of profits.

John Colley, professor of practice at Warwick Business School, said: “Cost savings are estimated at $1.4bn or 7 per cent of sales. This is a figure well below expectations, suggesting that pricing and distribution benefits may be the real driver of the deal.”

He said further regulatory-driven sell-offs from the deal were likely in China, Latin America and Europe.