SABMiller CFO Sees High Level of Merger Activity in Beverages

SABMiller Plc, the brewer whose advance toward Heineken NV was spurned last year, says the level of deal-making activity in the industry remains high as speculation persists about a bid from Anheuser-Busch InBev NV.

“Conversations, evaluations, looking at transactions, that’s still a big part of everyone’s day-to-day job in this industry,” interim Chief Financial Officer Domenic De Lorenzo said in at a press briefing in London Wednesday. “Activity levels, if you measure them in conversations and evaluations, are still relatively high.”

Dutch brewer Heineken said in September it turned down an approach from London-based SABMiller. Such a deal would have strengthened SABMiller against a potential bid by Anheuser-Busch InBev, people with knowledge of the matter said at the time. Closely-held French drinks maker Groupe Castel is often mentioned by analysts as a target for SABMiller, which already owns 20 percent of Castel. The maker of Coors Light declined to comment on specific acquisition targets Wednesday.

SABMiller is increasing its focus on sodas and other non-alcoholic beverages as global demand for beer stagnates and targets for consolidation become harder to find. In November, the company said it would form the biggest Coca-Cola Co. bottler in Africa, a deal that should close by December, SABMiller executives said Wednesday.

“Everyone is looking for growth opportunities, and we would do the same,” De Lorenzo said.

SABMiller shares rose 1.6 percent to 3,559.5 pence at 2:23 p.m. in London after the brewer reported full-year earnings that beat analysts’ estimates on a rebound in China.

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