Carlos Brito, chief executive of Belgian-Brazilian brewing giant InBev, said all the right things in his bid to woo August Busch IV at Anheuser-Busch after InBev made a rather bold unsolicited bid to buy North America’s largest brewer.
“I have a deep respect and admiration for Anheuser-Busch and its management,” he said, adding: “Anheuser-Busch is one of the most recognized and loved brands in the world,” adding”I strongly value the Anheuser-Busch heritage.”
Far from stripping out its offices in St Louis, Missouri, the city would be made the global headquarters for the Budweiser brand and the name of the merged company would reflect its heritage.
While Brito stopped short of guaranteeing there would be no job cuts, he promised there would be no brewery closures.
So far, however, his flattery seems to be having little impact on Busch and his board – not to mention St Louis statesmen, who are united against the bid, and its beer drinkers, who have set up savebudweiser.com to campaign for its independence.
Anheuser is one of a dwindling band of family businesses with a proud heritage. While the founders’ stake is now just 3.5 per cent, it has been led by a member of the Busch family since German immigrant Adolphus Busch married Eberhard Anheuser’s daughter Lily and started working in his brewery in 1864.
But the beer market is changing: consumption in developed markets is falling and the major brand breweries around the world are in a frenzy of consolidation. A-B does have a joint venture with Mexico’s Modello, owner of the Corona brand, and a joint venture in China, but the US still accounts for 80 per cent of its profits. Meanwhile InBev itself is the product of a merger between Brazil’s Am-Bev and Interbrew of Belgium four years ago; Heineken and Carlsberg are in the process of carving up Scottish & Newcastle between them; while SAB Miller – the world’s largest brewer, with brands such as Peroni and Coors – is itself the product of a merger in 2002.