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InBev deal with Anheuser Busch has closed

Associated Press
© November 18, 2008

By AOIFE WHITE 

BRUSSELS, Belgium 

InBev SA on Tuesday formed the world’s largest brewer when it closed its $52 billion takeover of Anheuser-Busch Cos.

The new company, named Anheuser-Busch InBev, will be headed by InBev CEO Carlos Brito and will be headquartered at Leuven, Belgium.

InBev promises to keep Anheuser-Busch’s St. Louis base as the company’s North American headquarters. Anheuser-Busch President and CEO August A. Busch IV joins the new company’s board as a non-executive director.

The deal gives InBev a jewel of a brand in Budweiser – the world’s top selling beer – which it promises to sell more widely by pushing into emerging economies in Asia, Latin America and eastern Europe.

This will help generate growth as beer sales decline in North America and Europe where drinkers are cutting back and turning to wine and other drinks.

Brito said the combination had created “a stronger, more competitive global company with a leading international brand portfolio and distribution network, and great potential for growth all over the world.”

InBev said it now had all the regulatory clearances it needed for the deal. Last week it agreed to sell Labatts USA to win U.S. Department of Justice approval for the takeover.

U.S. antitrust officials had worried that beer prices would increase in upstate New York because the two companies would supply most of the beer in the region.

InBev did not say who would buy the U.S. unit. It will keep its Canadian subsidiary Labatts, which is one of the top beer brands in the country.

Anheuser-Busch provides half of America’s beer but it has not managed to expand around the world as fast as InBev – a Belgian-Brazilian hybrid that owns hundreds of local brands but few real stars.

Anheuser-Busch owns several properties in Virginia in the Williamsburg area. In addition to a brewery in Williamsburg, the company’s subsidiaries own the Busch Gardens theme park, the Kingsmill Resort and Spa, and the Water Country USA water park.

InBev has borrowed $45 billion to pay for the deal and secured $9.8 billion in equity bridge financing that it had planned to replace with a share issue in October.

But rocky financial markets forced it to postpone issuing new shares and it says it can keep the bridge financing in place for up to six months after it closes the deal.

Carlos Brito, Chief Executive of the newly combined global brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev, talks about the completion of the deal, the significance of today’s announcement and next steps.

Mr Brito also underscores the rationale of deal in spite of today’s current economic climate and highlights the new company’s strategic and brand priorities to secure its ambition of becoming “the best beer company in a better world”.
 
Talking frankly of the challenges to come, he said the business would have to work harder but added that its beer business was lean and resilient and that it had the talent and skills base to see them through tough times.
 
He said that the company and its board were working hard on both possible asset sales and its prospective rights issue.
“The equity issuance is something that the Board will decide on the best time to do it; we have a bridge of six months after closing to get it done. And for the disposals of $7bn we have a bridge of up to 12 months after closing.”
The interview and transcript are available now on http://w3.cantos.com/inbev.

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