Friday, June 13, 2008

Anheuser-Busch to be sold to Belgians?

Belgian-Brazilian brewing giant InBev wooed Anheuser-Busch on Thursday, vowing to respect its St. Louis heritage and not close any US breweries if it accepts a 46-billion-dollar (30-billion-euro) takeover bid.

InBev, which already owns leading brands such as Stella Artois, Beck's, Leffe and Brahma, offered 65 dollars a share for Anheuser-Busch on Wednesday, seeking to build an unrivalled global brewer.

Even though the St. Louis, Missouri-based company said it would "review the merits" of the takeover, InBev faces stiff opposition from local politicians and beer lovers, who were quick to attack the takeover.

The success of the takeover offer will ultimately be decided by Anheuser-Busch's shareholders.

In early trading in New York, the US beer-maker's stock was 5.9 percent stronger at 61.87 dollars while in Brussels InBev shares fared even better, surging 6.17 percent to close at 50.21 euros.

Eager to ease fears about the takeover, InBev chief executive Carlos Brito said that Anheuser-Busch's hometown of St. Louis would not be only the headquarters of the combined group's North American business but also its international brands.

Moreover, Anheuser-Busch's well-known Budweiser brew would become the merged company's global flagship brand alongside InBev's Stella Artois, Beck's and Brahma lines.

"We see the potential to take the Budweiser brand and develop it across our foot print," Brito told a conference call, detailing the deal.

But perhaps more importantly for Anheuser-Busch's employees, Britos said: "There will be no closure of US breweries as part of this transaction."

With a takeover, InBev, which 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.

As a free trading capitalist I have no problem with this. It isn't like InBev would pick up all the US brewerys and take them to Belgium and then ship the beer back over here.

Again this is a case of American dollars which were sent overseas to buy foreign products coming back home, as they all eventually will. Anheuser-Busch shareholders get more for their stock than it is actually worth and InBev gets the best selling beer brands in the United States, which is one of the largest markets in the world.

Of course InBev is sadly mistaken if they believe that they are going to develop much of a market for AB's beers in other nations. Other countries brew beer which has something that the major American beers do not have - actual flavor.

Mexico has their Corona, Canada has Molson, Ireland has Guinniss and England has Newcastle, all of which are very fine beers. America has Budweiser which tastes like water which has been poured into a glass which has recently held beer and not been washed out.

I would hold out some hope that the Belgians would improve Bud however Bud simply doesn't taste while Belgian beer tastes - bad.

There is one thing that worries me about this deal. Anheuser-Busch is one of the most pro-Second Amendment corporations in the US. While other companies might sponsor major shooting competitions Anheuser-Busch is on record as supporting the average citizen's right to keep and bear arms and they are on record supporting the passage of "shall issue" concealed carry laws. Even though I don't really like their beers I will drink one occasionally just to say thank you for taking a stand supporting my rights.

I worry that ownership by a European corporation will change AB's policy. We all remember what happened to Smith and Wesson when they were taken over by Tompkins Ltd., a British firm. Under their new European masters S&W sold out their customers by signing a deal with the anti-gun Clinton Justice Department which would have imposed a great many restrictions on the way that firearms could be marketed and sold in the US.

But bottom line is that I am a free trading capitalist and if the new owners (assuming the deal goes through) change AB's stance on the 2nd Amd. I'll just stop having that occasional thank you beer.