SABMiller pauses AB InBev integration amid new offer

Wed Jul 27, 2016 3:57pm EDT
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By Martinne Geller

LONDON (Reuters) - SABMiller SAB.L has told employees to pause the integration of its operations with those of Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABI.BR: Quote) as the brewer's board weighs its sweetened takeover offer, two sources familiar with the matter said.

The pause is not an indication of the board's thinking, said one of the sources, who declined to be identified as the matter is private.

Still, AB InBev's U.S.-listed shares fell 3 percent and shares of Molson Coors (TAP.N: Quote), which is set to take over SAB's U.S. operations, fell 5 percent on concerns about the fate of the $100 billion-plus deal, one of the biggest in corporate history.

The world's top brewers agreed to merge late last year and for months have been engaged in back-office preparations, the sources said, aimed at smoothing the combination that was expected to start in the second half of the year when the deal was due to close.

The deal, however, has hit the rocks in recent weeks amid investor dissent over an offer made less attractive by a sharp fall in the pound following Britain's vote to leave the European Union.

In an effort to calm a stream of investor complaints, AB InBev sweetened its offer on Tuesday.

That prompted SABMiller Chief Executive Alan Clark to call for a pause in "convergence planning workstreams," according to a company memo published on Wednesday by the Financial Times' blog Alphaville.

"There should be no contact with AB InBev with immediate effect, and all meetings and calls will be postponed until further notice," the memo said, noting that it also applied to brewers Molson Coors and Asahi (2502.T: Quote), which are picking up assets that need to be divested in the deal, and all advisers and consultants.   Continued...

Photo illustration of beer flowing from a bottle of Stella Artois into a glass, seen against a SAB Miller logo, November 5, 2015.   REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo