SABMiller agrees in principle to merger with Budweiser owner

By Raf Casert The Associated Press

BRUSSELS At the sixth time of asking, British-based brewer SABMiller accepted “in principle” Tuesday a 69 billion-pound ($106 billion) takeover offer from Belgian-Brazilian Anheuser Busch InBev that will create the world’s biggest beer company and bring together top U.S. brands Budweiser and Miller Genuine Draft.
Having dismissed the five previous proposals from AB InBev over the past few weeks as undervaluing the company, the directors of SABMiller finally succumbed to an offer that values each SABMiller share at 44 pounds.
AB InBev, which owns Budweiser among a range of top-selling brands, has until Oct. 28 to come up with a formal offer. Over the coming two or so weeks, the two sides will work on the terms and conditions of the takeover offer as well as the financing of the deal.
In statements, the two companies said the all-cash offer represents a premium of around 50 per cent to SABMiller’s share price on Sept. 14, the last trading day before renewed speculation of an approach from AB InBev emerged. AB InBev’s first offer valued SABMiller, which has its roots in South Africa, at 38 pounds a share.
The markets think that the deal is now very likely and SABMIller’s share price was trading right near the offer price. In early-morning trading in London, SABMiller’s shares were up 8.8 per cent at 39.42 pounds.
If the merger deal is formally agreed, then the combined company will control some 31 per cent of beer sales around the globe. Given the size of the company, there are likely to be some regulatory concerns, notably in the U.S. and China as authorities worry about the impact on consumer choice.
The new company would dwarf the next biggest player, Heineken, which has 9 per cent of the market. A combined company would have total annual sales of $73.3 billion.
Market leader AB InBev already has six of the world’s largest beer brands. In addition to Budweiser, brands it owns include Stella Artois and Beck’s. SABMiller, which is based in London, is the maker of rival brand Miller Genuine Draft, along with other names like Peroni and Milwaukee’s Best.
Crucially for AB InBev, a deal would allow it to venture out more into the African and Australian markets where its might has yet to be felt in the way it is in Europe, North Africa and Asia.
The beer industry has been consolidating for the past decade as it seeks to gain more clout with suppliers, distributors and retailers in a market that’s seen overall slowing sales in the U.S.