Heineken Says 'Nee' To SABMiller

Heineken really knows how to spurn a suitor, telling the world in a statement yesterday that SABMiller’s advances to acquire it recently were “nonactionable.” It went on to state, “the Heineken family has informed SABMiller … of its intention to preserve the heritage and identity of Heineken as an independent company” and said it “does not intend to make any further public statements in relation to this announcement.”


Bloomberg’s David Welch, Matthew Campbell and Manuel Baigorri broke the story earlier in the day that SABMiller had been “rebuffed in … a deal that would have strengthened it against a potential bid by Anheuser-Busch InBev NV, people with knowledge of the matter said.”



In the event you haven’t been tracking all the considerable wooing and hitching in the industry over the past decade, Belgium-based A-B InBev is currently the No. 1 global brewer with about 20.6% share of market last year, as Business Insider’s Matthew Boessler noted in February. London-based SABMiller is No. 2 (9.7%) and Heineken, the Dutch brewer that’s still controlled by its founding family, is a close No. 3 (9.2%).

“For SAB, a way of preserving their independence is to buy Heineken,” Matthew Beesley, portfolio manager and head of global equities for London-based Henderson Global Investors Ltd., told Bloomberg’s reporters. “It’s easy to underestimate the desire for management teams to be in control of their own destiny rather than to sell their business at a very high price.”

Heineken was founded in Amsterdam in 1864 by Gerard Adriaan Heineken. Control passed to Charlene de Carvalho, the low-key daughter of jet-setter Freddie Heineken, grandson of the founder, after his death in 2002. Last year, Charlene’s older son, Alexander, then 28, was named to a four-year term on the board of Heineken Holding NV, the fifth generation of the family to join the business.

“The Heineken family controls the holding company, which in turn controls Heineken NV,” the AP’s Toby Sterling reported at the time. “That structure lets the family retain a veto over Heineken's corporate decisions with just a 25% economic stake.”

Like the Dutch explorers of the 17th century, the beer has made its intrepid way around the world.

“Heineken's namesake lager is distributed in more than 100 countries, giving it a rare global footprint in an industry still dominated by local brands,” points out the Wall Street Journal’s Mike Esterl. “Heineken would also give SABMiller a bigger presence in Asia and Mexico. Heineken is the second-largest brewer in Mexico, where it brews Dos Equis and Tecate.”

But, points out Reuters, “from an antitrust point of view, there would be considerable areas of overlap between the two, including in the Netherlands, parts of Africa and Latin America as well as Vietnam and India.”

“A deal for SABMiller would allow AB InBev, which makes Budweiser, Stella Artois and Corona, to address its problem of a slowdown in growth in beer volumes,” observed the Financial Times’ Arash Massoudi. “It would also allow AB InBev to gain a foothold in Africa and other fast-growing markets where it lacks a strong presence.”

An SABMiller deal for Heineken “would have nearly doubled [SABMiller] in size by market value, making an acquisition by AB InBev more difficult. But without that added scale, SABMiller may still be a target,” writes David Gelles in the New York Times. But Gelles point out that “40% of its shares are controlled by a private family in South America, the big tobacco company Altria and the government of South Africa,” making any takeover difficult.

“SABMiller has continued to grow in its key emerging markets, but has seen something of a rebound in recent months,” reportsThe Telegraph’s James Titcomb. “SABMiller has also been rumored to be considering a tie-up with Diageo, the multinational drinks group behind Guinness and Smirnoff, in order to ward off interest from ABI.”

But analysts were [pouring] cold water” on those rumors in July, the Guardian’s Nick Fletcher reported.

Meanwhile, “rumors of a tie-up between Belgium-based A-B InBev, already the world’s largest brewer, and London-based SABMiller have been around for years, but talk of a deal between the two is heating up,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Lisa Brown also reported in July.

“I think that we’ve come to a break point, a decision point,” Bevmark Tom Pirko said at the time. “I think that we’re close now.”

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