BRUSSELS (AFP) — Belgian-Brazilian brewer InBev is to swallow US rival Anheuser-Busch in a 52 billion dollar (33 billion euro) takeover creating the world's biggest brewer, the companies said Monday.
After having resisted offers from InBev for a month, the Anheuser-Busch board finally agreed on Sunday to accept a sweetened bid that had been raised to 70 dollars a share in cash from 65 dollars.
While ending 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 will have net sales of about 36 billion dollars 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, a tough 48-year-old Brazilian known for cutting costs, is to lead the new company, which will be called Anheuser-Busch InBev.
The bid for Anheuser-Busch had stirred fierce opposition in the company's home state of Missouri where Governor Matt Blunt has called the prospect of a foreign takeover "deeply troubling."
But many US shareholders in Anheuser-Busch, including billionaire investor Warren Buffett, favoured the deal.
Brito has sought to win over opponents to the merger by promising to make Anheuser-Busch's hometown of St. Louis, Missouri the sprawling company's North American headquarters.
In addition to promising not to close any of Anheuser-Busch's 12 US breweries, he said Budweiser would become the company's international flagship brand.
Brito said he wanted Budweiser to follow in the steps of other great American brands that conquered the rest the world, such as Coca-Cola, McDonald's and Frito-Lay potato chips.
"Budweiser brings the great America in a bottle. That's what consumers love," he told a conference call with reporters.
The companies said they expect to save 1.5 billion dollars annually from 2011 through synergies and that the tie-up will begin adding to earnings from 2010.
InBev shares jumped Monday morning on the news that the deal had been reached, but were in retreat by mid-day trading in Brussels, showing a loss of 2.22 percent at 43.51 euros.
Anheuser-Busch's shares rose 0.99 percent to 67.16 dollars in morning trade in New York.
InBev first offered 65 dollars per Anheuser-Busch share on June 11, hoping to create an unrivalled global brewing giant, but the US company spurned the offer as "financially inadequate."
Until InBev raised its offer, the takeover battle was getting increasingly hostile, with last week both companies threatening legal action against the other.
"While the process was at times difficult for all parties the right result occured for everyone," said Anheuser-Busch chief executive August Busch IV, whose family has run the company since its founding.
With a takeover, InBev, which already claims the title of the world's biggest beer maker, would create close to a 100-billion-dollar business in the most ambitious act of corporate consolidation since last year's credit crunch shook the markets.
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.
With the Anheuser-Busch takeover, InBev will take a leading position in the North American beer market where it previously had little presence.
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