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InBev shareholders approve Anheuser-Busch deal

Monday, September 29, 2008 | 11:55 a.m. CDT; updated 12:12 p.m. CDT, Monday, September 29, 2008

LEUVEN, Belgium — InBev SA shareholders on Monday backed the company's $52 billion takeover of Anheuser-Busch — a deal that would form the world's largest brewer under the name Anheuser-Busch InBev.

Shareholders also approved a capital increase and share issue that would raise up to $10 billion to pay for part of the deal. That covers the existing equity bridge financing of $9.8 billion in place since the deal was announced in July, InBev said, with an extra margin to cover any major currency fluctuations until the deal closes.

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Shareholders of St.Louis-based Anheuser-Busch still need to approve the deal.

The takeover would bring together the makers of Budweiser, Michelob, Bud Light, Stella Artois and Beck's and create the world's largest brewer, as well as the third-largest consumer products company.

More than three-quarters of InBev's shareholders voted in favor of the deal, the name change and the capital increase at a meeting at the company's Leuven, Belgium headquarters.

They also backed the appointment of Anheuser-Busch chief executive August Busch IV as a director in the new company and changing control of Anheuser-Busch's existing $45 billion senior credit facility and the equity bridge financing of $9.8 billion.

InBev had already said its controlling shareholder — Stichting InBev, which owns a 52 percent stake — backed these changes with the support of at least another 11 percent.

Stichting InBev is controlled by three Brazilian financiers — including the investment banker and billionaire Jorge Paulo Lemann — and a group of Belgian families.

A date for a vote by Anheuser-Busch's shareholders has not yet been set. A spokeswoman reached Monday did not say when that would be. Last week the company set this Friday as its record date, meaning anyone who owns stock by that day will be able to vote on the sale.

InBev is currently the world's second-largest brewer, narrowly behind SABMiller. Swallowing Anheuser-Busch would see it capture half of the U.S. beer market and a fifth of the markets in China and Russia.

The Belgian-Brazilian brewer said its foothold in emerging markets such as China and Brazil would boost sales of Anheuser-Busch's brands.

The Anheuser-Busch board agreed on July 14 to be taken over by InBev, heading off what had promised to be a long and acrimonious takeover battle for the brewer.

InBev has tried to soothe American fears of job losses by promising to keep open all 12 North American breweries - a commitment chief executive Carlos Brito repeated Monday, saying there would be no closures as long as the company did not face extra U.S. taxes.

Anheuser-Busch already plans to shed 1,185 positions — mostly by offering early retirement and not filling existing vacancies.

 

 


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