AB InBev Said to Near SAB Financing, Has Held Talks With Altria

  • Talks with Altria took place before announcement this week
  • AB InBev close to securing bank financing for proposal

Anheuser-Busch InBev NV is close to lining up a group of banks to help finance a takeover proposal for SABMiller Plc, and has sounded out the smaller brewer’s main shareholder about a deal, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

AB InBev reached out to Altria Group Inc., which owns about 27 percent of SABMiller, before it announced on Wednesday that it plans to make an approach for its smaller rival, the people said, asking not to be identified because the discussions are private. Altria has signaled it is open to considering a proposal, depending on the terms, the people said.

Banks, who have been scrambling to win a role on the potentially lucrative proceedings, are willing to offer more than $50 billion of debt for the acquisition, one of the people said. A takeover proposal may come as soon as a financing package is in place, they said. AB InBev is keen to reach a friendly deal, one of the people said.

AB InBev’s U.S.-listed shares dropped 0.4 percent at the close in New York Friday, reversing earlier gains of as much as 1.1 percent. SABMiller’s U.S.-listed shares climbed 4.8 percent.

Spokesmen for AB InBev and SABMiller declined to comment. A representative for Altria didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Potential Offer

SABMiller is also open to discussing a potential bid from AB InBev, people familiar with the matter said on Wednesday. The London-listed brewer would consider an offer that provides good value for shareholders as its options for consolidation narrow in a stagnant brewing industry, the people said.

Altria is working with Credit Suisse Group AG and Perella Weinberg Partners for advice on a possible combination of the brewers, people familiar with the matter have said.

A deal would help both brewers combat a slowdown in developed markets like the U.S. and Europe, where drinkers are seeking out craft brews or wine and spirits instead of beer. AB InBev would gain access to over $7 billion of revenue in Africa with brands including Castle lager and almost $4 billion of sales in Asia if it bought SABMiller, reducing the beer giant’s dependence on the U.S., Mexico and Brazil.

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