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Brewers’ merger ‘would hurt consumers’

| Wine and liquor

The Public Investment Corporation (PIC), which owns a stake in brewer SABMiller, on Tuesday said it opposed a takeover by larger competitor Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev) because it could create a brewer that was too dominant, thus hurting consumers.

"Quite frankly, I’m not in favour of it," CEO Daniel Matjila said.

"We may be creating some kind of a monopoly going forward, which may have a serious impact on the global economy and beer market in general."

Mr Matjila would not say which way the PIC, which owns 3.14% of SABMiller, would vote on an offer should one be made.

London-based SABMiller has rejected an informal takeover offer from AB InBev of about €66.4bn that it considered too low, according to people familiar with the matter. If successful, the combination would create a dominant force in a brewing sector that has been realigned through a decade of increasingly large mergers, and attract heavy scrutiny from antitrust regulators around the world. Controlled by a group of wealthy Brazilian investors led by Jorge Paulo Lemann, AB InBev is itself the result of deals to unite major Belgian, American and Latin American brewers.

"I’m hoping that the authorities will be able to apply their minds to protect consumers out there," Mr Matjila said.

The PIC, Africa’s largest money manager, is owned by the government and manages most state-worker pension funds.

The initial proposal made last week to SABMiller, the brewer of Castle and Black Label beer, was worth slightly more than £40 a share, while its executives and some shareholders regarded a deal at closer to £45 as representing a fair value, the people said, asking not to be identified as details of the negotiations were not public.

A deal at £45 per share would value SABMiller at about £73bn, and would be the largest merger this year.

SABMiller had communicated to AB InBev the terms at which it would be willing to negotiate after the rejection, one of the people said. No final decision was made on a potential formal offer, and it was possible AB InBev, the producer of Budweiser, might still walk away.

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