Brewers’ £79 billion mega-merger could cost UK 600 jobs


Almost 600 British jobs could be at risk when AB InBev, the world’s biggest brewer, completes its £79bn acquisition of Britain’s SABMiller, The Guardian reports.

Setting out the structure for the combined company, AB InBev, whose beers include Budweiser and Stella Artois, said it would remain based in Belgium, with its operations managed from New York.

SABMiller’s UK operations are set to miss out, according to AB InBev. The SABMiller office in Woking, Surrey will stay open for a transitional period only while the two companies combine. Out of a total of 576 corporate employees in the UK, the maker of Foster’s lager and Pilsner Urquell has 523 in Woking and more than 50 at its London office.

AB InBev said: “We can confirm … SABMiller’s existing UK locations will be significantly impacted after the combination completes.”

The combined company will be run by a team of 19 senior executives, all but one of whom will come from AB InBev. They will report to Carlos Brito, AB InBev’s chief executive.

Alan Clark, SABMiller’s chief executive, was not mentioned in details of the new structure. SAB’s general counsel, human resources head and managing director for Africa will stay for six months or more to help manage integration.

AB InBev has cut costs ruthlessly as it has bought up companies around the world, including Anheuser-Busch, the brewer of US beer Budweiser. Before it offered to buy SABMiller in September, analysts said it needed a big deal to keep profits growing as beer consumption shrinks in the US, where the rise of craft ales has hit sales of mass-produced beer.

AB InBev plans to make $1.4bn (£1.1bn) of cuts once the deal completes in October. Buying its closest rival SABMiller will make AB InBev the brewer of almost a third of the world’s beer and will give it access to African countries where sales are increasing.

AB InBev’s cost cutting has made it unpopular with beer enthusiasts, who claim its industrial approach results in characterless beer.

The takeover was thrown into doubt last month, eight months after the deal was agreed, because the pound’s fall had pushed up the value of UK companies that, like SABMiller, make many of their sales in dollars. SABMiller had also traded strongly since the terms were agreed, increasing shareholder concerns that it was being sold too cheaply.

AB InBev increased its offer by £1 a share to £45 to placate SABMiller investors and the UK company’s board recommended the revised bid last week.

To satisfy competition regulators, AB InBev has agreed to sell SABMilller’s Peroni and Grolsch brands to Japan’s Asahi, along with Britain’s Meantime craft brewery. It has also promised to sell Pilsner Urquell and other eastern European brands when a buyer is found.