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SABMiller rejects AB InBev's $104 bln takeover approach

beerBRUSSELS/LONDON--SABMiller, the world's second largest brewer, has promptly rejected an improved takeover proposal from Anheuser-Busch InBev, saying its 68 billion-pound ($104 billion) valuation was "very substantially" under par.
  Refusal of the offer, made public on Wednesday after earlier proposals were refused privately, opens the door to a week of intense wrangling before an Oct. 14 deadline for a formal bid set by the UK takeover panel. The deal would be one of the biggest in corporate history, uniting the maker of Budweiser, Corona and Stella Artois beers with that of Peroni, Grolsch and Pilsner Urquell. The combined entity would make nearly a third of the world's beer.
  AB InBev realistically needs access to SAB's private financial data if it is to make an informed formal bid, but said that so far the board had not engaged meaningfully. A deadline extension can be granted if SABMiller asks for it, and AB InBev wants shareholders to lobby the company.
  "The deadline is approaching and we thought we should make it public," AB InBev CEO Carlos Brito said on a conference call. "Now it's up to the shareholders to have a look at it. If they think this is a good offer, they should act and encourage the board to engage."
  Brito said he was committed to a friendly deal, but did not rule out going hostile. "I don't want to go there now. I think there's too much to be gained in the next few days," he said.
  Belgium-based AB InBev went public with its offer of 42.15 pounds in cash per SABMiller share, after the board rejected two prior approaches, at 38 and 40 pounds. The offer includes a discounted cash-and-share alternative designed only for SAB's two largest shareholders, Altria Group and BevCo.
  The discount aims to satisfy their desire to avoid huge taxes on cash gains and ensure all other shareholders accept cash, which would be financed with the help of a $70 billion debt package being lined up. Altria, the tobacco group which has 26.6 percent of SABMiller, said it supported the bid and would be prepared to opt for the share alternative.
  AB InBev said it lacked the support of BevCo, controlled by the Santo Domingo family of Colombia. Representatives for BevCo, which owns about 13 percent of SABMiller, could not be reached by Reuters. BevCo has two seats on the SABMiller board.
  SABMiller said its board, excluding the three members nominated by Altria, unanimously rejected the proposal.

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