BRUSSELS - Agence France-Presse
Belgian-Brazilian brewer InBev is to swallow U.S. rival Anheuser-Busch in a $52 billion takeover creating the world's biggest brewer, the companies said yesterday.
After having resisted offers from InBev for a month, the Anheuser-Busch board finally agreed Sunday to accept a sweetened bid that had been raised to $70 a share in cash from 65.
While capping Anheuser's roughly 150 years of independence as a premier American brewer, the deal creates not only the world's largest beer company but one of the top five consumer goods groups in the world.
The new company would have net sales of about $36 billion a year, offering consumers about 300 brands, including Anheuser's Budweiser and Bud Light and InBev's Stella Artois and Beck's.
InBev chief executive Carlos Brito is to lead the new company, which will be called Anheuser-Busch InBev, the groups said in a statement.
By merging, the companies said they expect to save 1.5 billion euros annually through synergies and that the tie-up will begin adding to earnings from 2010.
"Together, Anheuser-Busch and InBev will be able to accomplish much more than each can on its own," Brito said in a statement announcing the merger. "This combination will create a stronger, more competitive global company with an unrivaled worldwide brand portfolio and distribution network.�
With the takeover, InBev, which already claims the title of the world's biggest beer maker, would create close to a $100 billion business in the most ambitious act of corporate consolidation since last year's credit crunch shook the markets.
InBev was created by the 2004 merger of Belgian group Interbrew and Brazilian brewer Ambev and since then has focused mostly on emerging markets with a growing taste for beer.But with the Anheuser takeover, InBev will take a leading position in the North American beer market, where it previously had little presence.
The bid for Anheuser-Busch had stirred fierce opposition in the 150-year-old company's home state of Missouri where Governor Matt Blunt has called the prospect of a foreign takeover "deeply troubling." But many U.S. shareholders in Anheuser, including billionaire investor Warren Buffett, favoured the deal.
Brito has sought to win over opponents to the merger by promising to make St. Louis the sprawling company's North American headquarters as well as by vowing not to close any U.S. breweries and lifting the international profile of Budweiser.
"With Budweiser as our global flagship brand, that will give us a great platform to develop that brand along with Beck's and Stella Artois," Brito said in a video statement.
The global beer industry has had a growing thirst for mergers in recent years as brewers struggle to cope with falling consumption in traditionally big markets in developed countries and soaring prices of raw materials.
After successive waves of mergers in recent years, Britain-based SABMiller and Dutch group Heineken have emerged as the leading international brewers along with InBev and Anheuser-Busch.
InBev was created by the 2004 combination of Belgian group Interbrew and Brazilian brewer Ambev and since then has focused mostly on emerging markets with a growing taste for beer.
But with the Anheuser takeover, InBev will take a leading position in the North American beer market, where it previously had little presence.
"Given the excellent geographic fit, the strong strategic interest and InBev's track record in running cost savings programmes, we believe this is a very att