China approves Anheuser-Busch InBev takeover of SABMiller

Deal one step closer to 2016 target following previous green lights from EU and US

Brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev on Friday cleared a major hurdle towards its takeover of SABMiller with regulatory approval from China, leaving the acquisition's future in the hands of the British company's board.

China’s ministry of commerce said it had approved the acquisition on condition that InBev fulfilled its commitment to sell SABMiller’s stake in Chinese beer joint venture CR Snow.

The maker of Budweiser, Stella Artois and Corona said the conditional clearance meant it had satisfied all pre-conditions following earlier green lights from EU, US and South African authorities.

It is now waiting for the SABMiller board’s recommendation on a revised $100-billion-plus bid proposed on Tuesday.


Investor dissent

AB InBev added a pound per share to its cash offer to quash investor dissent over an offer made less attractive by a fall in sterling following Britain’s vote in June to leave the EU. It has also hiked its share-and-cash alternative by 88 pence.

"This offer is final and cannot be increased or otherwise changed," chief executive Carlos Brito told a conference call after the company's second-quarter results. "We believe the revised and final offer represents a compelling opportunity for all SABMiller shareholders."

Sweetened offer

SABMiller, with prized Latin American and African markets, has told employees to pause the integration of its operations with those of AB InBev as the board weighs the sweetened offer.

Nevertheless, Mr Brito said the two companies had made significant progress together since November on regulatory issues, bond financing and asset disposals in the US, China and Europe, as well as general integration planning.

“It remains our objective to close the transaction in 2016,” he said.

- (Reuters)