Carlsberg Foundation Loosens Grip to Give Takeover Room

The Carlsberg Foundation, which controls the world’s fourth-largest beermaker, will relax its grip to give the Danish brewer room to pursue takeovers and investments.

The foundation will drop the requirement that it hold at least 25 percent of the share capital in Carlsberg A/S, the company said today in a statement. It will continue to control at least 51 percent of the voting rights through preferred A-shares. The brewer also will adopt a dividend policy to pay at least 25 percent of adjusted net income back to shareholders.

“Carlsberg have been clear they want to buy assets in Asia and this may help with that,” said Jonathan Fyfe, an analyst at Mirabaud in London. “They have also been low on dividend payments and now can lift that up, so it’s good news.”

The foundation last changed its charter in 2007 in a move that allowed Copenhagen-based Carlsberg to sell shares to help finance its acquisition of Scottish & Newcastle Plc assets for 4.3 billion pounds ($7 billion). Carlsberg has identified Asia as a new growth area to help diversify its geographical exposure as the Russian government’s crackdown on alcohol sales have hit revenue in the country.

‘More Flexibility’

The move “is intended to give Carlsberg more flexibility as a consolidator,” analysts including Trevor Stirling at Sanford C. Bernstein in London, said in a note to investors. “It is not a precursor to Carlsberg being sold.”

The beer industry has undergone radical transformation in the past decade, with the three biggest beer companies consolidating available assets across the globe. Anheuser-Busch InBev BV last year spent $20.1 billion to buy the rest of Grupo Modelo SAB and Heineken NV shelled out $4.5 billion to buy out a joint venture partner in Asia Pacific Breweries.

Carlsberg shares rose as much as 1.2 percent to 572 kroner and traded 0.2 percent lower at 10:54 a.m. in Copenhagen, bringing its gain for this year to 1.8 percent.

Carlsberg doesn’t have any immediate plans to sell shares, Carlsberg Chief Executive Officer Joergen Buhl Rasmussen said today, but added that the new flexibility will make the company more agile in pursuing opportunities.

Carlsberg, whose bonds are graded Baa2 at Moody’s Investors Service and BBB at Fitch Ratings, said it will pursue a strategy that protects its investment-grade rating.

The new dividend policy would have raised Carlsberg’s 2012 pay-out ratio by more than 50 percent, the company said. Carlsberg will phase in the new dividend policy over a two-year period.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.