- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The maker of the King of Beers has agreed to work for the Belgian brewer InBev SA.

Anheuser-Busch Cos. said Monday it had agreed to a sweetened $52 billion takeover bid from InBev, creating the world’s largest brewer and heading off what was shaping up as an acrimonious fight for the maker of Budweiser and Bud Light beers. InBev brands include Stella Artois, Beck’s and Bass.

The combined company will be called Anheuser-Busch InBev. As of the end of last week, InBev said it would be the world’s third-largest consumer products company by market capitalization after Procter & Gamble of the United States and Nestle SA of Switzerland.

The Anheuser-Busch board accepted the higher takeover offer Sunday night from InBev, according to a joint press release. The deal is expected to close by year’s end.

“What consumers care is that their Bud will always be their Bud, and that’s what we’re committed to, not only the product, the quality, the beer … but also the heritage, the breweries, who brews the beers, and everything that’s connected to the breweries,” InBev CEO Carlos Brito said in a media conference call.

For InBev, the deal gives an aggressive company an iconic beer brand - Budweiser - to sell into emerging markets such as China and Brazil where it has already established a wide network.

InBev is the world’s second-largest beer maker, narrowly behind SABMiller. Swallowing Anheuser-Busch sees it leap ahead, capturing half of the U.S. market and a fifth of China and Russia.

Mr. Brito will be the CEO of the combined company, while Anheuser-Busch CEO August Busch IV will step back into a non-executive role. He will be a member of the new company’s board alongside one other nominee from Anheuser-Busch, yet to be named.

Anheuser-Busch shares rose 50 cents to $67 in trading after rising to a 52-week high of $67.55.

The deal drew the attention of Mexico’s Grupo Modelo. Anheuser-Busch also owns a 50 percent share in Grupo Modelo, which said Monday that its relationship with Anheuser-Busch gives it consent rights to the deal.

InBev said it plans to use St. Louis as its North American headquarters, and that it will keep open all 12 of Anheuser-Busch’s North American breweries.

Mr. Brito tried to reassure workers worried about possible job loses, saying the company could instead expect “growth and investment” despite Anheuser-Busch’s existing plans to shed 1,185 positions mostly by offering early retirement and not filling existing vacancies.

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