Anheuser-Busch takeover bid becomes a hostile one
The battle for America’s iconic beer turned nasty Monday as InBev escalated its offer for Anheuser-Busch Cos. into a hostile bid while the maker of Bud again accused its suitor of undervaluing its worth.
Leuven, Belgium-based InBev said it would attempt to remove the entire board of directors of Anheuser-Busch, which responded by calling the move an attempt to use a “hand-picked board” to buy the largest U.S. brewery at a discount.
“Anheuser-Busch shareholders should ask themselves whether the directors selected by InBev would negotiate the best transaction for Anheuser-Busch shareholders,” the St. Louis-based company said in a statement.
Anheuser-Busch’s directors rejected InBev’s offer of $65 a share two weeks ago as inadequate, but said the company would consider a higher price.
InBev, the brewer of such beers as Stella Artois and Beck’s, wants Anheuser-Busch to respond to its proposal on the board within 10 days. InBev said it was taking action because Anheuser-Busch had refused to talk about its offer.
In an aggressive move to bypass Anheuser-Busch’s board, InBev, in a filing Monday with U.S. regulators, asked Anheuser-Busch’s shareholders to submit a motion to the company that would fire its board members and replace them with an alternate slate.
The brewer proposed an alternate board, including Adolphus Busch IV, the uncle of Anheuser-Busch CEO August Busch IV, that would give shareholders “a direct voice” in the takeover, InBev said.
If a majority of shareholders go along with InBev’s $46-billion bid for Anheuser-Busch, they could remove the board and approve the offer for the company, which makes such popular brands as Budweiser and Bud Light.
Although the rhetoric between the two sides grows more hostile by the week, their statements Monday indicated there might be room for a negotiated purchase.
Carlos Brito, InBev’s chief executive, said he strongly preferred to negotiate with Anheuser-Busch. He said InBev’s offer of $65 a share was well above the company’s $50 per-share price before the stock’s value was inflated by market speculation about InBev’s offer.
While insisting that the previous offer was too low, Anheuser-Busch’s statement said it “would be open to consider any proposal that would provide full and certain value to Anheuser-Busch shareholders.”
Anheuser-Busch shares rose 7 cents Monday to $61.74. InBev gained 28 cents to $41.73.
Anheuser-Busch’s board has laid out its own plan for earnings growth that would cut costs and increase prices to boost the stock’s value over the next few years.