AB InBev Lifts SABMiller Takeover Proposal to $103.6 BillionBy
Most shareholders to be offered 43.50 pounds a share in cash
45 pounds `is what would more or less make everyone agree'
Anheuser-Busch InBev NV raised its proposed bid for SABMiller Plc to about 67.4 billion pounds ($103.6 billion), seeking to bring the U.K. brewer to the negotiating table ahead of Wednesday’s deadline for an offer that would create the world’s dominant beermaker.
Under the proposal, the majority of stockholders would get 43.50 pounds a share in cash, Leuven, Belgium-based AB InBev said in a statement Monday. SABMiller’s two biggest investors, Altria Group Inc. and BevCo Ltd., the Santo Domingo family’s holding company, would receive 38.88 pounds a share in cash and stock, AB InBev said.
SABMiller wants AB InBev to pay closer to 45 pounds a share, people familiar with the discussions said late Sunday. The Peroni maker has spurned three previous proposals, the most recent of which AB InBev made public on Oct. 7. The back-and-forth follows a contentious week for the world’s two biggest brewers, who between them control half of the industry’s profit pool from brands like Grolsch, Peroni, Stella Artois and Bud Light.
“They’re getting closer to the price that could be interesting,” said Pietro Cirenei, who manages more than 500 million euros at Soprarno SGR in Milan including SABMiller and AB InBev shares. “For shareholders, 45 is surely a more interesting price. Somewhere around 45 is what would more or less make everyone agree.”
SABMiller fell 2.4 percent to 3,581 pence at 3:31 p.m. in London. The cash proposal is 48 percent higher than the brewer’s closing price on Sept. 14, the day before speculation of a deal. AB InBev rose 0.3 percent to 98.64 euros.
SABMiller didn’t immediately respond to the improved proposal, and its board was meeting in London to discuss it, people familiar with the matter said. Chairman Jan du Plessis said last week that AB InBev’s previous offer “substantially” undervalued the company. AB InBev Chief Executive Officer Carlos Brito countered by saying the board’s opposition lacks credibility and shareholders are being offered a price the brewer alone won’t achieve anytime soon.
“I think we’re approaching the final price for what they’re willing to do,” said John Maxwell, the manager of the Ivy International Core Equity Fund in Kansas City. The fund has $4.2 billion in assets under management, including SABMiller shares.
AB InBev wants SABMiller’s exposure to emerging markets in Latin America and Africa, while SABMiller is trying to maintain its independence, and sought to rally shareholders around its refusal to enter talks by doubling a target of planned cost savings. Under U.K. takeover law, AB InBev has until 5 p.m. London time on Wednesday to make a formal offer or it must walk away. If it doesn’t bid it can’t renew its takeover effort for six months.
“This new offer is just to get SABMiller to come to the table,” De Wet Schutte, an analyst at Avior Capital Markets in Cape Town, said by phone. “Given the picture SABMiller has been painting of its potential growth, this latest offer may still be a bit light.”
SABMiller’s investors around the globe are now choosing sides in the industry’s biggest-ever deal. Marlboro maker Altria -- the biggest shareholder, with a 27 percent stake -- supported AB InBev’s previous proposal, and a spokesman declined to comment Monday. An investment banker close to Colombia’s Santo Domingo family, which controls 14 percent, said SABMiller has better growth prospects than its larger suitor. On Friday, two big institutional shareholders backed SABMiller’s rejection.
The revised proposal changes little, said Javier Gonzalez Lastra, an analyst at Berenberg.
“If the board said the last proposal substantially undervalued the company, you have to wonder how much a 3 percent increase is going to change their position," he said.
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