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SABMiller shareholders to have their say on AB InBev mega-merger in crunch vote

Published 27/09/2016

AB InBev has moved to sell SABMiller's Peroni, Grolsch and Meantime brands to Japanese firm Asahi
AB InBev has moved to sell SABMiller's Peroni, Grolsch and Meantime brands to Japanese firm Asahi

Shareholders of beer giant SABMiller will have their say on the firm's £79 billion mega-merger with Budweiser brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev on Wednesday in a crunch vote on the deal

If given the green light, the deal will become the biggest in UK corporate history and create a brewing giant with a raft of some of the world's biggest beer brands.

But it is understood the deal could face opposition from a number of investors, while the vote has been complicated by the decision last month to split SAB's shareholders into two groups.

The vote comes after Belgium-based AB InBev upped its all-cash offer for SAB to £45 a share in July, up from its earlier price of £44, following the collapse in the value of the pound after the Brexit vote.

A UK court last month ordered a split of SABMiller's shareholder base, separating out its largest investors - tobacco group Altria and the wealthy Colombian Santo Domingo family, who together own around 40% - from the wider investors.

This means AB InBev needs the support of 75% of the remaining investors to clinch the deal.

While it is thought AB InBev is likely to win the approval it needs, there have been concerns raised by a string of investors, such as Aberdeen Asset Management.

Investment firm Ash Park Capital also reportedly wrote to other SAB investors in August urging them to join it in voting against the deal, with Swiss firm Vontobel also thought to be planning to shun AB InBev's offer.

AB InBev has already secured the regulatory clearance it needs, gaining backing from China in July, meaning it has now been approved in 23 jurisdictions worldwide, satisfying all pre-conditions of the deal.

AB InBev, the world's largest brewer, has moved to sell SABMiller's Peroni, Grolsch and Meantime brands to Japanese firm Asahi as part of efforts to appease regulators.

It has also signalled its intent to sell SABMiller's businesses in central and eastern Europe.

SAB employs around 69,000 people in more than 80 countries and has global annual sales of more than 26 billion US dollars (£19.6 billion).

But more than five thousand jobs are expected to be axed as a result of the merger, while bankers, lawyers and PR firms are set to celebrate a 735 million US dollars (£556 million) fee bonanza.

According to documents released last month, the combined entity will slash approximately 3% of its global workforce, amounting to around 5,500 jobs.

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