SABMiller deal may only be the beginning for Anheuser-Busch InBev

Budweiser maker Anheuser-Busch InBev is in an acquisitive mood.

Once Anheuser-Busch InBev seals its £79bn (€93bn) takeover of rival brewer SABMiller it could find itself party to other smaller deals, involving Castel Group, Coca-Cola and Anadolu Efes.

AB InBev, maker of Budweiser and Corona, already forged agreements to sell SAB’s brands in western Europe and its joint venture stakes in the US and China to speed approval for one of the biggest deals in history. 

It also plans to offload SAB’s assets in eastern Europe, worth up to €7bn, but has not agreed a buyer.

Besides those, SAB has a cross-shareholding with France’s Castel Group that, according to sources, includes the first right to buy out the wine, beer and soft drink maker should it ever seek new owners outside the billionaire Castel family, helmed by Pierre Castel, who is nearly 90.

That right would transfer to AB InBev, giving it a path toward potential full ownership of Castel, which some analysts estimate is worth more than $30bn due partly to it being the second-largest beer and soft drink maker in Africa.

The continent, with its increasingly thirsty middle class, is one of the main drivers of ABI’s takeover —expected to close in October following a shareholder vote on September 28.

Castel, which also boasts wine estates in Morocco, Tunisia and Ethiopia, is “such a jewel in the crown,” according to Liberum analyst Alicia Forry, that AB InBev would likely jump at the chance to own it.

“It’s a very important relationship we intend to continue to develop and evolve,” AB InBev chief executive Carlos Brito told analysts last month when asked about Castel.

Aside from beer, which SABMiller has sold in South Africa since 1895, the brewer now owns 57% of soft drinks seller Coca-Cola Bottling Africa. Under an existing change-of-control clause, Coke will have the right to buy SAB’s stake — estimated to be worth as much as $4bn —once the takeover closes.

Coke declined to comment on its intentions but several analysts, including Bernstein’s Trevor Stirling, believe it will buy the stake, in part to keep ABI away from its door. 

With no more room to grow in beer, chatter among bankers has turned to whether the mega brewer will eventually move into soft drinks.

A takeover of Coke — which has a market value of $188bn — would be of unprecedented scale, even for the renowned dealmakers at AB InBev. 

Yet a growing relationship between AB InBev backers 3G Capital and major Coke shareholder Warren Buffett have led some fee-hungry bankers to imagine the legendary investor lending a hand.


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