BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - BELGIAN-BRAZILIAN brewing giant InBev raised the stakes on Monday in its takeover battle for Anheuser-Busch by lauching legal action to oust the board of the US brewer.
Raising the pressure on the US company to accept its US$46 billion (S$62.75 billion) bid, InBev said it would seek support from Anheuser-Busch shareholders to replace the board and proposed an alternative line-up.
'InBev's proposed slate is composed of experienced, distinguished business executives, including a number of former chief executive officers of leading US public companies across various sectors,' the company said in a statement.
'They are committed to acting in the best interests of Anheuser-Busch shareholders and will take an independent view on the proposed combination,' it added.
InBev said that it would lodge a so-called consent solicitation statement with the US Securities and Exchange Commission later on Monday in order to dismiss each member of the current board.
Among the new board members proposed by InBev figured Mr Adolphus A. Busch IV, a great grandson of the founder of Mr Anheuser-Busch and uncle of Mr August A. Busch IV, the company's current president and chief executive.
He also happens to have come out openly in support of InBev's bid.
InBev, which already owns leading brands such as Stella Artois, Beck's, Leffe and Brahma, offered US$65 per Anheuser-Busch share on June 11, hoping to create an unrivalled global brewing giant.
But the St. Louis, Missouri-based company, brewer of iconic brands Budweiser and Bud Light, spurned the offer as 'financially inadequate and not in the best interests' of shareholders.
Describing InBev's bid as offering 'full and fair value' for Anheuser-Busch, InBev chief executive Carols Brito left the door open for a higher offer, while reiterating that his company had a 'strong preference' to discuss 'a friendly combination.' Analyst Wim Hoste at Belgian brokerage KBC Securities said that it was 'hard to estimate' whether InBev's move to dismiss Anheuser-Busch's leadership would succeed, although it lowered the chances of a higher bid.
'We believe InBev's move slows down a bit the pace of the takeover project, which we believe in the end will come down to the question whether Anheuser-Busch's shareholders will accept InBev's offer or not,' he said in a note to clients.
'With this respect, we believe that the chance of InBev sticking to the offered 65 dollar per Anheuser-Busch share has risen, given the recent stock market turmoil.'
'We still believe InBev will prevail in the end and succeed in acquiring Anheuser-Busch,' he added.
Shares in InBev, which have shed nearly 28 per cent of their value since the start of the year, were down 0.60 per cent at 41.20 euros (S$87.99) in mid morning trading in Brussels while the Bel-20 index of leading Belgian stocks edged up 0.16 per cent.
With a takeover, InBev, which claims the title of the world's biggest beer maker, would create close to a US$100 billion business in the most ambitious act of corporate consolidation since last year's credit crunch shook the markets.
The bid has stirred fierce opposition in the 150-year-old company's home state of Missouri, where Governor Matt Blunt has called prospect of a foreign takeover 'deeply troubling.' -- AFP