AB InBev clears China hurdle in SABMiller takeover deal

Fri Jul 29, 2016 8:04am EDT
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By Philip Blenkinsop and Ben Blanchard

BRUSSELS/BEIJING (Reuters) - Brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABI.BR: Quote) cleared a major hurdle toward its takeover of SABMiller SAB.L with regulatory approval from China on Friday, leaving the acquisition's future in the hands of the British company's board.

China's ministry of commerce said it had approved the acquisition on condition that AB InBev fulfilled its commitment to sell SABMiller's stake in Chinese beer joint venture CR Snow.

The maker of Budweiser, Stella Artois and Corona said the conditional clearance meant it had satisfied all pre-conditions following earlier green lights from EU, U.S. and South African authorities.

It is now waiting for the SABMiller board's recommendation on a revised $100-billion-plus bid proposed on Tuesday. AB InBev added a pound per share to its cash offer to quash investor dissent over an offer made less attractive by a fall in the sterling following Britain's vote in June to leave the European Union. It has also hiked its share-and-cash alternative by 88 pence.

"This offer is final and cannot be increased or otherwise changed," Chief Executive Carlos Brito told a conference call after the company's second-quarter results. "We believe the revised and final offer represents a compelling opportunity for all SABMiller shareholders."

SABMiller, with prized Latin American and African markets, has told employees to pause the integration of its operations with those of AB InBev as the board weighs the sweetened offer.

Nevertheless, Brito said the two companies had made significant progress together since November on regulatory issues, bond financing and asset disposals in the United States, China and Europe, as well as general integration planning.   Continued...

A promoter poses with a can of Budweiser Prohibition Brew, a non-alcoholic beer, while giving away free samples in Toronto, Ontario, Canada June 23, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Helgren