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This Bid's For You


InBev targets Anheuser-Busch for buyout.


Lost in the travails of Wall Street's latest round of executive downsizing, a $46 billion takeover could place one of America's most iconic corporations under foreign control.

Belgium-based Inbev, the world's largest brewer, made an unsolicited bid late yesterday for American beer-maker Anheuser-Busch (BUD). Bloomberg reports Inbev has strong support for its $65 per share bid from a consortium of banks, including Banco Santander, JP Morgan (JPM), Deutsche Bank (DB) and others. The offer will be financed with $40 billion of debt, reducing the amount of stock Inbev would have to sell to raise capital for the deal.

Inbev's stock popped on the news, rare for a suitor in a takeover situation. Typically an acquiring company will see its shares fall on such news, as investors fret about the cash it may have to shell out to complete the deal.

Despite some public statements opposing the sale of his great-great grandfather's firm, Anheuser-Busch CEO August Busch IV may not have much choice in the matter. The family owns less than 4% of the company's stock, a smaller share than Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway (BRK-A). In an email sent to vendors and employees, Busch said the decision on whether to accept Inbev's offer would be made in the shareholders' best interests.

Attempting to assuage concerns about the status of the Budweiser brand in the U.S., Inbev will reportedly adopt the Budweiser name and has promised not to close any domestic breweries. Still, the transaction faces stiff opposition from labor unions (and those who stubbornly refuse to drink beer that doesn't taste like elephant urine).

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The takeover would follow recent consolidation in a beer industry hell bent on collapsing competition. According to The Wall Street Journal, SAB Miller is set to combine its U.S. operations with Molson Coors (TAP) and Heineken NV and Carlsberg AS are buying and splitting up the assets of U.K. brewmaster Newcastle PLC.

With shares of Anheuser Busch trading just shy of the $65 offer, investors are voicing their approval for the deal. And with battered banks backing the bid, the deal supports the thesis -- long-proposed on Minyanville -- that consumer staples will be pockets of strength as consumers focus on needs, not wants.

Beer is a classic recession-proof consumer item. Their questionable taste notwithstanding, Budweiser and Bud Light are poised to capitalize on these shifting consumer priorities. The two already account for more than half of the beer consumed nationwide, and with a little help from their Belgian friends, they may someday actually taste like, well, beer.

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No positions in stocks mentioned.

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