By Martinne Geller
JOHANNESBURG-SABMiller shareholders approved the brewer’s takeover by rival Anheuser-Busch InBev on Wednesday, paving the way for one of the biggest proposed mergers in history.
The US$103 billion deal was approved by more than 95 percent of SAB shareholders who voted. A minimum approval rate of 75 percent was needed.
SABMiller’s two largest shareholders, cigarette maker Altria Group and the Santo Domingo family of Colombia, did not vote on Wednesday as both parties, who together control about 40 percent of the shares, had already pledged their support for the deal.
The merger will create the world’s largest beer firm, producing almost a third of the world’s beer.
SABMiller and Anheuser-Busch InBev – who own Budweiser – originally agreed the deal last year, but in July AB InBev was forced to raise its offer after a fall in the British pound following the Brexit vote.
Following the weakening of the pound, AB InBev raised its offer by £1 a share to £45 a share, valuing SABMiller at about £79bn.
“We are pleased that our shareholders’ vote brings us one step closer to combining our companies, teams, strong heritage and passion for brewing,” said AB InBev chief executive Carlos Brito.
“We are committed to driving long-term growth and creating value for all our stakeholders.”
SABMiller counts Castle, Peroni, Pilsner Urquell, and Grolsch among its stable of brands, while AB InBev produces Budweiser, Stella Artois, Corona, Leffe and Beck’s.
However, to get the deal past regulators, AB InBev has already agreed to sell SABMiller’s Peroni, Grolsch and Meantime brands to Tokyo-based drinks company Asahi.
The takeover is expected to boost AB InBev’s prospects in developing markets in Africa and China, where a SABMiller joint venture produces Snow, the world’s best-selling beer by volume. – Reuters