AB InBev Clears SAB Fence in South Africa as Union Withdraws

  • FAWU says will take no further part in approval proceedings
  • Talks on employee share program to take place separately

Anheuser-Busch InBev NV cleared a hurdle toward gaining approval for the brewer’s takeover of SABMiller Plc in South Africa as the country’s Food and Allied Workers Union said it will take no further part in the regulatory approval process.

The FAWU agreed with the merging brewers and South Africa’s Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel on Thursday that most conditions relating to the future of SABMiller’s Zenzele employee-share program be removed from the Competition Commission’s recommendation of the deal. The FAWU will instead negotiate on behalf of the program’s participants directly with AB InBev and won’t argue its case against the conditions at the Competition Tribunal hearing in Pretoria this week, the union said.

South Africa is just one of the jurisdictions where AB InBev is trying to get regulatory approval for the takeover, with the country’s Competition Tribunal set to decide on whether to rubber stamp the deal after the hearing concludes on Friday. A key date in the process is Aug. 12, when SABMiller is scheduled to pay its dividend. AB InBev will receive the payout if the deal is completed by then. SABMiller, the brewer of Castle and Grolsch lagers, traces its roots back to 19th century Johannesburg.

The FAWU will still argue for SABMiller’s Zenzele program to be be wound up and replaced with a new plan that’s more relevant to the enlarged company, General Secretary Katishi Masemola told reporters outside the hearing. The labor group withdrew from the regulatory process for fear of being “handcuffed” by the Tribunal’s decision, he said.

“We’re going to negotiate with merging parties once more,” Masemola said. “If we don’t reach an agreement we are going to exercise our rights to fight."

A condition to the deal remains that AB InBev will have to present plans for the empowerment of non-white employees to the South African government. The state encourages businesses in the country to help compensate those discriminated against during apartheid.

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