SABMiller Launches $10 Billion Hostile Bid for Foster's

SABMiller Launches $10 Billion Hostile Bid for Foster's

The prospect of a takeover of Foster's, one of Australia's best known brands, had been anticipated since a recent demerger and amid consolidation within the Australian beverage industry.

After an initial approach was rejected in June, SABMiller, the world's second-biggest brewer, is attempting a hostile takeover bid for Australian beer giant Foster's.

London-based SABMiller, which makes beers Grolsch and Miller Lite, said its renewed offer was unchanged at Aus$4.90 per Foster's share, or about Aus$9.5 billion (7 billion euros).

"SABMiller believes that the proposal put to the Foster's board is attractive and should be put to Foster's shareholders," SABMiller said. "As there has been no willingness to engage in relation to SABMiller's proposal on the part of the Foster's Board, SABMiller has decided to make an offer to Foster's shareholders directly."

The maker of Foster's lager said it would take its time responding to the hostile bid but in June said the offer "significantly undervalues" the company.

Foster's shares stood at Aus$4.96 on Aug. 17, while in London SABMiller's stock rose in midday trade after falling earlier on.

The maker of Foster's lager rebuffed SABMiller's first takeover attempt. (Photo courtesy Foster's)
Spreadex trader Chris Purdy had said the initial sell-off made sense ahead of the Australian brewer's earnings update next week.

"It seems few investors are willing to brave the acquisition storm without knowing which way the wind is blowing," he added.

The prospect of a takeover of Foster's, one of Australia's best known brands, had been anticipated since a recent demerger and amid consolidation within the Australian beverage industry. Foster's, which owns Australia's largest brewer Carlton and United Breweries, recently split its beer division from the underperforming wine assets, which had suffered because of a grape glut and soaring local dollar.

The company last month said it was focused on realizing Foster's full potential.

"From our perspective, there's always been noise around this company. And why wouldn't there be?" Foster's chief executive John Pollaers said in July. "But as I said, our focus is to let SABMiller do what they need to do, our focus is on this business."

SABMiller's pursuit of the Australian company is meanwhile in line with its own strategy of extending its global reach. Founded in South Africa in 1895, SABMiller operates in 75 countries, while it is also a major bottler of Coca-Cola.

The maker of Castle lager has noted that Australia has a strong, wealthy and growing economy that is well positioned to benefit from continued economic growth in Asia, and has a profitable beer market.

Foster's has meanwhile been battling intense competition in the beer industry, affecting its flagship brands VB, Crown and Carlton Draught. Foster's estimated that the domestic beer market shrank 7% in the second half of 2010.

But SABMiller, whose brands also include Peroni Nastro Azzurro, Tyskie and Blue Moon, said in May that annual net profits for 2010-11 had jumped by a quarter to US$2.4 billion on rising sales in developing markets.

African, Asian and Latin American sales rose 20%, 16% and 7% respectively. SABMiller added that its North America sales were flat, while in Europe they fell 3%.

The world's biggest brewer, Belgium's Anheuser-Busch InBev -- which makes beers including Beck's, Budweiser, Hoegarden, Leffe and Stella Artois -- was not expected to join a bidding war for Foster's, according to analysts.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2011

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