InBev Said to Be Prepping $46 Billion Bid for A-B

Union of Beer Giants Could Reshape Global Industry

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Anheuser-Busch's stock is jumping on a report this morning that Belgium-based InBev, the world's largest brewer, is preparing a $46 billion takeover bid for the No. 1 U.S. brewer.

According to the Financial Times, the offer has been discussed at the last two InBev board meetings, and the brewer has already arranged for financing. The report also noted that InBev, expecting to get a cold reception of from A-B CEO August Busch IV, will then likely appeal directly to A-B's board of directors, who might be hard-pressed to pass on an offer of a significant premium over A-B's current share price.

Long-rumored plans
The combination has been long rumored, even considered inevitable by some analysts, because A-B's international prospects appear to be somewhat limited and InBev is eager to expand its footprint in the U.S., where A-B dominates the world's richest market.

At last fall's National Beer Wholesalers Association conference in Las Vegas, Citigroup analyst Bonnie Herzog gave a lengthy presentation on why she viewed the combination as both logical and inevitable.

The immediate U.S. marketing ramifications of such a deal would be somewhat limited, because A-B currently markets many of InBev's brands here -- including Beck's, Bass and Stella Artois -- under a long-term importing agreement that went into affect last year. However, InBev is known for tight budget controls that, were it in charge, would likely lead to reductions in ad spending for A-B's brands.

Deal heard round the world
But the pact would likely set off another round of global consolidation that could send other major brewers including SABMiller, Molson Coors, Diageo and Heineken scrambling into new combinations that could give them scale competitive with the behemoth. And that would reshape the global beer industry in perhaps dramatic ways.

Both A-B and InBev spokespeople declined to comment on the report.
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