Four rejected bids, reams of regulatory red tape and months of behind the scenes jostling - AB InBev’s buyout of British brewer SAB Miller has been one hell of a rollercoaster. Last week both brewers finally laid all their cards on the table, publishing the full T&Cs of the £79bn deal - the biggest takeover in British corporate history - ahead of the shareholder vote.
So for those without hours to plough through hundreds of pages of corporate speak (and a brand new website to boot), what are the top 10 takeaways?
1. AB InBev could be looking at a name change
Talk of creating the ‘first truly global brewer’ may have been more than mere marketing puff if a new website unveiled by the Belgian multinational is anything to by. Details of the £79bn deal were released via a site named theglobalbrewer.com last week, leading analysts to speculate on a new identity - a rumour that CEO Carlos Brito would neither confirm nor deny.
2. Merged HQ operations will deliver big savings…
AB InBev expects to save $420m (£321m) from ditching any overlapping HQ and admin roles. Global HQ will remain in Leuven, Belgium but SAB Miller’s London offices will shut within 12 months and many HR and finance roles will be stripped from its Woking HQ. Add to that savings in sourcing, bottling and shipping and the new company expects to save $1.4bn (£1.1bn) a year.
3. …but will also lead to casualties
Merging roles may save AB InBev millions but it’ll also mean 3% of the companies’ combined workforce will be cut, reportedly leaving more than 5,500 jobs at risk once employees at divested businesses are taken out of the equation. Woking will take a big hit with up to 575 jobs surplus to requirements, some “in a short period following completion”. Remaining job reductions will be implemented “gradually” over a period of three years and AB InBev says it will work to make alternative roles available across the rest of the business.
4. Senior SAB Miller execs won’t be sticking around
Following the deal, all but one of the new senior team will be trusted AB InBev execs. A few of these have even been rewarded with promotions such as Michel Doukeris, who will go from president of Asia Pacifics to chief sales officer. The only SAB Miller survivor is Mauricio Levya, who will take on the role of president of the Middle Americas - an unsurprising appointment given that AB InBev plans to leverage the UK brewer’s experience in this region. It’s unlikely SAB execs will go hungry though. Chief exec Alan Clark is already on course for a £55m payout and other senior figures surely won’t walk away empty-handed.
5. Core brands look set for a refresh
Under the combined company, the vast majority of “money, people and attention” will go to brands with a global or “multi-country” appeal (see left), say the strategy documents. Significantly, this investment will see the likes of Budweiser, Stella and Corona given an update “so they remain relevant for today’s millennial consumers and broaden beer’s appeal”.
6. Brands that don’t fit the bill could be out
The brewer won’t be afraid to trim off the excess as it doggedly pursues its ‘Focus Brands’ strategy. Beers that aren’t guzzled up on an international platform or fail to “build deep connections with consumers” could find themselves disposed of “from time to time”, say the UK documents. It’s a strategy that could arguably leave exposed SABMiller’s sprawling portfolio of 150+ brands, including hyper local varieties such as Oculto, a Mexican-themed party beer.
7. Africa will be a major driver of growth
With beer sales on the African continent set to grow three times the rate of global volumes between 2014 and 2025, it holds “great potential” for the newly merged mega brewer, says AB InBev. As such, there will be a new dedicated Africa Board and a commitment to contribute to the South Africa community, with no job losses in the region, a £52m investment in local agriculture and “cooperation with the government to reduce the harmful effects of alcohol”.
8. The new brewer will be ‘better’ as well as bigger
AB InBev is well aware that the bigger you are, the greater the importance of strong CSR. Plans to create a “better world”, with initiatives to stem drink driving, reduce environmental impact and volunteer in communities, are all highlighted on the new site. By joining up with SAB Miller, it vows to “pool resources and expertise to make a greater and more positive impact on the world around us”.
9. Brexit sealed the deal
A battered pound in the wake of Brexit left the deal far less attractive for SAB Miller, say analysts. In fact, speculation was rife as to whether the UK political landscape could be the final nail in the coffin. Transaction documents reveal Brexit did indeed play heavily on the minds of SAB Miller, with subsequent market volatility revealed as a top consideration in the transaction documents. Law firm Centerview Partners was even hauled in to provide extra advice in light of the new market conditions, they confirm. As a result, AB InBev sweetened its offer by increasing its promised cash payment by £1 per share (an extra £1.4bn), which sealed the deal.
10. Shareholders don’t have long to decide
Votes at the three AGMs of AB InBev, SAB Miller and Newbelco (the holding company for the deal) will all take place in a little over three weeks’ time on 28 September. It’ll be a tense 24 hours after the UK’s High Court approves a split vote between SAB Miller’s two major shareholders - the Santo Domingo family and Altria - as those with smaller shares will have the power to sway the decision. If AB InBev gets the result it’s hoping for, though, it is planning to delist SAB Miller shares from the London Stock Exchange a week later (5 October) with the merger ‘effective’ by 10 October.