Anheu ser-Busch InBev clinched its $103 billion takeover of SABMiller after the British brewer’s investors approved a deal that unites the world’s two biggest beermakers about a year after it was proposed.
SABMiller shareholders voted 95.46 per cent in favour of the sale, clearing the 75 per cent needed for the takeover to proceed, the London-based company said in a statement Wednesday. The overwhelming approval laid to rest concerns that the deal could founder following opposition from some investors, even after AB InBev sweetened its offer in July.
AB InBev will dominate the combined entity, which will account for one of every three beers sold worldwide. The Budweiser maker will keep its name, ditching any vestiges of SABMiller, and only one SABMiller executive will be on the new company’s senior leadership team. The Leuven, Belgium-based brewer plans to cut about 3 percent of the enlarged company’s workforce, with an eye toward generating $1.4 billion of annual savings.
“AB InBev are paying a full price; they can do with the company what they wish, they can call it what they wish,” SABMiller Chairman Jan du Plessis said on the sidelines of the shareholder meeting in London. “That’s the way life works and that’s fine. It is what it is.”
The deal brings brands like Stella Artois, Beck’s and Foster’s under one roof and provides AB InBev with its first foothold in Africa. The Belgian brewer is more reliant on new markets as sales in more developed regions like the U.S. and Brazil come under pressure. The enlarged company will generate revenue of about $55 billion, according to Jefferies International analyst Edward Mundy, who estimates AB InBev can deliver cost savings of $3 billion.
The vote concludes a yearlong process that saw the brewers haggle for weeks over price before spending months hammering out asset divestments to appease antitrust regulators worldwide. The structure of AB InBev’s bid caused division among SABMiller shareholders, leading to a U.K. court ruling that separated the target’s two biggest investors, tobacco maker Altria Group Inc. and Colombia’s Santo Domingo family, from other stakeholders.
Altria and the Santo Domingos favored the deal because of a tax-efficient structure designed for them. Others such as Aberdeen Asset Management said they were uncomfortable with the composition of the bid, leading the court to rule that smaller shareholders should vote separately.
“We are obviously disappointed with, but not surprised by, the result,” Aberdeen said in an e-mailed statement. “While the vote has not gone our way we do take comfort that our engagement with the board and management helped to secure a better deal for our clients.”
SABMiller shares rose 0.5 per cent to £44.89 at 12.56 p.m. in London, while AB InBev rose 0.6 percent to €118.05 in Brussels. Trading in SABMiller is scheduled to end on Oct. 4 and the deal will be completed on Oct. 10.
Some fans of SAB’s beers didn’t take the news well, particularly in South Africa, where the brewer’s predecessor company began by selling beer to miners in 1895.
“It feels like a loss of identity - and pride,” said Lee Goodall, a 28-year old copywriter, as he drank SAB’s Castle Lite over lunch at the Colony Arms pub in Johannesburg. “Like we will be drinking foreign beers from now on.”
News by Bloomberg, edited by Hospitality Ireland