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InBev to keep pursuing Anheuser bid despite rebuff

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) -- Brewer InBev SA on Tuesday made a plea to Anheuser-Busch shareholders to challenge the U.S. beer company's rejection of its unsolicited $46 billion takeover bid.

InBev CEO Carlos Brito insisted that his offer of $65 a share was "full and fair" and gave shareholders immediate certainty as stock markets plunge.

The Anheuser-Busch board on Thursday rejected InBev's offer as "financially inadequate," launching a plan to boost earnings growth in order to win shareholder support to stay independent.

Brito blasted that plan as having "significant execution risks."

Instead, he said InBev offered an established track record of international expansion and consistent profitability that would see the company gain "unmatched economies of scale in a period of rapidly escalating commodity prices."

He was careful not to appear hostile, saying InBev would have preferred constructive dialogue with the brewer of Budweiser and was "surprised" not to hear from Anheuser-Busch before it publicly rebuffed the bid.

The Belgium-based maker of Stella Artois and Beck's has already set the stage for a hostile takeover battle by saying it would "pursue all available avenues that would allow Anheuser-Busch shareholders a direct vote."

Last week, it filed a lawsuit seeking a declaration that shareholders could oust the company's 13 board members without cause.

InBev made no move to raise its offer, saying it gives shareholders an immediate cash premium of 35 percent above the 30-day average share price prior to recent market speculation.

The $65-per-share offer is also 18 percent above Anheuser-Busch's previous all-time share price high in October 2002, it said.

If successful, InBev's bid would create by far the world's largest brewer, binding together a set of strong brands and a large global footprint.

Based in Belgium, InBev now pulls most of its profits outside of the stagnant beer-drinking markets of North America and Europe, focusing instead on emerging economies in Latin America, Asia, eastern Europe and Russia.

But the company's aggressive cost-cutting has spooked some in the United States.

Several politicians have come out against the deal, saying it may create a near-monopoly in the U.S. beer market and damage the economy in the company's home state of Missouri by shedding some of the 6,000 workers the company employs in St. Louis.

InBev has promised not to shut any U.S. breweries and to keep the company's North American headquarters in St. Louis.

The beer industry has been consolidating in recent years amid rising costs for transport fuel and key ingredients.


On the Net:

Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc.: www.anheuser-busch.com

InBev: www.inbev.com


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