SABMiller (SAB.L) shareholders backed the $100-billion-plus takeover by rival Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABI.BR) by a large majority on Wednesday, paving the way for one of the biggest corporate mergers in history.
The 79 billion pound deal was comfortably passed by the SAB shareholders who voted. It had required approval from a majority in number of shareholders and by at least 75 percent in share value. For the latter, it secured 95.5 percent support.
SABMiller’s two largest shareholders, cigarette maker Altria Group (MO.N) and the Santo Domingo family of Colombia, who together control about 40 percent of the shares, had already pledged their support for the deal.
The approval of SAB shareholders was widely expected, but not a given. Criticism of the takeover offer grew over the summer, after a steep fall in sterling following Britain’s vote to leave the European Union made AB InBev’s cash offer less appealing.
Activist shareholders pressured SAB to seek a higher offer, prompting AB InBev to sweeten its bid in July. SAB backed the higher offer, though some prominent shareholders, including Aberdeen Asset Management, continued to oppose it.
The takeover is expected to be completed on Oct. 10, nearly a year after AB InBev first approached SABMiller about the acquisition, which required a succession of sweetened bids to win over SAB and asset disposals to satisfy regulators around the world.
The shares of the new company will begin trading on Oct. 11 in Brussels, with secondary listings in Johannesburg and Mexico City and American Depositary Shares in New York.
Soon after, the company is expected to kick off a sale process for SAB’s central and eastern European brands, estimated to be worth up to 7 billion euros.
Earlier, AB InBev Chief Executive Carlos Brito, who will head the combined company, outlined the rationale for the deal – including the creation of the first global brewer with new fast-growing African and Latin American markets – before announcing that the name Anheuser-Busch InBev would remain.
After selling off SAB’s joint venture stakes in China and the United States and its businesses across Europe, the combined company will have a 27 percent share of the global beer market, according to Euromonitor International, with large positions in markets of Africa and Latin America.
Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s largest brewer, had offered SABMiller a $3 billion break-up fee, payable if regulators or its own shareholders failed to approve the takeover.
(Reporting by Martinne Geller in London, Philip Blenkinsop in Brussels; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)