Anheuser-Busch releases proposal to make its shares more valuable

Friday, June 27, 2008 | 3:41 p.m. CDT; updated 5:56 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

NEW YORK — Anheuser-Busch Cos. on Friday detailed its plan to make the company more valuable than the $65 per share offer it rejected from InBev, and gave 2008 and 2009 profit guidance above analyst expectations.

In a conference call with investors, Anheuser-Busch executives reiterated that InBev’s proposal, which it rejected on Thursday, undervalued the St. Louis, Mo.-based company and its future growth prospects.

The call came a day after InBev filed a suit in Delaware court, where Anheuser-Busch is incorporated, seeking to officially declare that shareholders can remove all 13 members of Anheuser-Busch’s board. Such a declaration could be the first step to rally Anheuser-Busch shareholders to accept InBev’s offer, even if management is opposed to it.

As part of the plan, Anheuser-Busch said it expects low-double digit earnings per share growth in fiscal 2008, with a target of $3.13 per share.

Analysts polled by Thomson Financial, on average, predict a profit of $3.01 per share.

For fiscal 2009, the company expects earnings of $3.90 per share, while analysts predict $3.29 per share.

Anheuser-Busch now plans to save $1 billion total between 2008 and 2010, up from $500 million it said it expected to save in February. It expects 75 percent of the savings in 2008 and 2009.

Anheuser-Busch said it will drive results partly with price increases, spurred by commodity cost pressures including higher fuel prices and raw material costs. Increases will be heavily weighted in the fourth quarter, with 95 percent in September in October, and occur over 85 percent of volume.

The company expects revenue per barrel to increase 4 percent both in 2008 and 2009, driven by the price increases.

Also, the company is implementing an early retirement plan it will offer to salaried employees in the third quarter. Of the 8,600 employees eligible for the program, including 1,300 who are 55 and older, the company expects 10 to 15 percent will accept the plan.

Anheuser-Busch will take a $300 million to $400 million charge related to the retirement plan in the fourth quarter.

The beermaker also said it is increasing its 2008 share repurchase plan to $3 billion from $2 billion and plans for $4 billion in repurchases in 2009.

The company said that while growing U.S. market share continues to be objective, its savings plan assumes zero market-share growth.

The company does not intend to sell its entertainment and parks divisions as part of the plan, the company said.

W. Randolph Baker, vice president and chief financial officer, said InBev’s offer undervalues the company, given its future growth plan, the “value of our iconic brand and substantial market share leadership in the most profitable beer market,” the U.S.

Share rose 91 cents to $62.26 during morning trading.

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