Months back, I went on record as saying that the much-speculated merger between InBev, the number two by volume brewery in the world, and Anheuser-Busch, number three, would not likely take place, at least not in the immediate future. The Busches are too fond of their company, my reasoning went, and their board far too likely to follow their lead. August Busch IV confirmed my position a short time later when he vowed the merger would not take place “on my watch.”
Now a new scenario is emerging, and it’s one which I believe makes a whole lot more sense, even if it’s still far from a done deal.
Reports emerging this week have InBev taking an unsolicited run at A-B, relying on the power of activist investors who would disregard the recommendations of the Busch family, which controls less than 4% of the company’s stock, according to a recent Wall Street Journal report.
While both companies are playing coy at present, this line of thinking is much more in keeping with the way InBev rolls. Canadians will certainly think so, at least, since we remember all to clearly the “merger of equals” between Interbrew and Labatt, which fairly quickly turned into an amalgamated and Belgian-controlled company. More recently, Brazil’s AmBev has felt the overpowering influence of Belgium working to wrest control of company that emerged from its merger with Interbrew. Simply, judging from past performance, the Belgian side of InBev doesn’t like to lose power or control, so if A-B was not going to submit peacefully, then it makes sense that InBev could take a more aggressive position.
This is one big brewery deal that could become very interesting to watch, more so, even, than the recent drama-packed takeover of Scottish & Newcastle by the combined forces of Heineken and Carlsberg.