Page last updated at 06:01 GMT, Monday, 14 July 2008 07:01 UK

Stella firm buys Budweiser brewer

Budweiser sign at Anheuser-Busch brewery in St Louis
The takeover will create the world's biggest brewer

The US brewer Anheuser-Busch has agreed to be taken over by Belgium-based InBev, in a move that will create the world's largest beer maker.

The $52bn (26bn) takeover bid by InBev, which makes Stella Artois beer, was accepted by Anheuser's board.

The combined company will now be called Anheuser-Busch InBev.

Anheuser makes Budweiser - the most popular beer in the US - and some US politicians had expressed anger at the prospect of a foreign takeover.

'Unrivalled brands'

In a concession to political concerns about the deal, Budweiser's headquarters will remain in St Louis, Missouri while none of Anheuser's US breweries will be closed.

Stella beer dispensers
Stella, Budweiser, Beck's, Hoegaarden, Leffe, Brahma, Staropramen, Michelob, Rolling Rock

InBev is offering to pay $70 a share for Anheuser in a deal which must be approved by shareholders of both businesses.

The combined business will have annual sales of $36.4bn, equivalent to 46 billion litres of beer a year.

It will bring a host of popular brands including Beck's, Hoegaarden and Staropramen - in addition to Budweiser and Stella - under one roof.

InBev, itself formed by a giant merger of Brazil's AmBev and Belgium's Interbrew several years ago, described the deal as "historic".

"Together, Anheuser-Busch and InBev will be able to accomplish much more than each can on its own," said InBev's Brazilian boss Carlos Brito, who will become chief executive of the new firm.

"This combination will create a stronger, more competitive global company with an unrivalled worldwide brand portfolio and distribution network, with great potential for growth all over the world."

Anheuser boss August Busch said the transaction would "enhance global market access for Budweiser, one of America's truly iconic brands".

Job concerns

There are widespread fears that the deal will lead to substantial job losses in the US Midwest at a time while the threat of recession is hanging over the economy.

The two firms have said the deal will generate annual savings of $1.5bn but have suggested that job losses will be kept to a minimum because there is little current overlap between the two businesses.


Some of the famous Anheuser-Busch beers

Anheuser - which employs 6,000 staff - currently controls nearly half of the US market, while InBev is strong in Western European and Latin American markets.

Anheuser also owns stakes in Mexican brewer Grupo Modelo and Chinese brewer Tsingtao.

The deal should give Budweiser a platform to boost its growth in Europe where, apart from a number of markets like the UK, it has been relatively weak.

Analysts broadly welcomed the deal.

"The synergies are better than expected, $70 is a reasonable price and InBev has avoided a long, drawn-out battle in the courts," said Wim Hoste, from KBC Securities.

The beer market has been rapidly consolidating in the face of cost pressures and declining sales in many mature markets.

Scottish & Newcastle, the UK's largest brewer, was recently bought out by Heineken and Carlsberg.

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