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Beer takeover attempt heating up

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KAI RYSSDAL: The beer war over Anheuser-Busch is heating up. The Belgian brewer InBev filed papers today to try to oust the entire Anheuser board. It’s proposing a new slate, one presumably more open to the $46 billion takeover bid that the Anheuser-Busch incumbents rejected two weeks ago. Marketplace’s Amy Scott reports.

AMY SCOTT: InBev owns shares in Anheuser-Busch. And shareholders can try to remove a company’s board. If it seems like an unfriendly tactic, Wim Hoste with KBC Securities says the goal is an amicable resolution.

Wim Hoste: If it would succeed in changing the composition of A-B’s board, then it might create another chance of getting to start friendly talks.

InBev says it’s taking action because the current board has refused to discuss its offer. But there could be a downside to playing hard. Eric Shepard edits the trade newsletter Beer Marketer’s Insights.

Eric Shepard: Employee morale could be hurt quite fiercely in an attempt like this. And if InBev ultimately takes over A-B, they’ll have to do some smoothing over, I would think.

Anheuser-Busch employees may be left with a bitter taste whether InBev succeeds or not. Dale Oesterle teaches at the Moritz School of Law in Ohio. He says in its efforts to ward off the takeover bid, Anheuser-Busch has talked about cutting jobs.

Dale Oesterle: You could be an employee and, say, “You know, I might be better off under InBev. They’re better managers. They’ll keep some factories open that it looks like Anheuser-Busch might close.”

InBev’s threat to unseat the Busch board could be so much froth. Oesterle says it may be a bargaining tool, to try to get the current board to talk and maybe even consider a higher offer.

In New York, I’m Amy Scott for Marketplace.

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