US: Anheuser-Busch hits back at InBev criticism
Anheuser-Busch this week responded to speculation about its future in a letter to its employees amidst the ongoing takeover dispute with InBev. In it CEO August A. Busch IV refused to be drawn on what price he felt the business was worth and dismissed rumours the board had acted in the interests of the Busch family and not its shareholders.
The letter, which followed a webcast with investors and analysts broadcast last week, reiterated that while the company is seeing growing sales, it also sees the need to reduce costs for better profitability. The company also said it was committed to delivering US$3.90 earnings per share by the end of 2009.
The St Louis brewer said, as part of the strategic plan, it will implement price increases in response to rising commodity costs, make production, material and energy savings, enhance the company retirement programme and also its stock buyback and dividend payouts.
Asked whether Anheuser-Busch is concerned about a lack of international growth prospects, CEO August A. Busch answered that the company remained "open to any international alliance that would provide value for A-B shareholders".
He also dismissed concerns about the company's theme park and packaging divisions, saying a sale was not on the cards.
"We have reviewed these possibilities rigorously and continue to review them. There's no financial case for selling them. The value estimated in our plan is better than the after-tax value we would gain from selling them," he said.
"These subsidiaries continue to provide financial and strategic value to our beer business."
On Monday, InBev responded to Anheuser-Busch's rejection of its takeover bid by reiterating the perceived positives of its original offer.
The Belgium-based brewer, which saw A-B's board turn down its US$65-a-share offer late last week, said that it "remains committed" to its proposal, adding that it was "surprised" not to hear from A-B's board directly, prior to the public announcement of rejection.
In the letter, Busch said: "We are not going to put a price tag on our company or on our iconic brands. I can tell you that our board of directors believes InBev's $65 per share offer undervalues our company based both on comparable transactions and on our own plan, among other things.
"Our board believes InBev's proposal brings value to their shareholders, not ours. We are committed to delivering more value to our shareholders through our own strategic plan."
However, Anheuser refused to rule out a sale of the business at the right price, rejecting claims that it had refused InBev's offer in order to protect the Busch family legacy.
"The board's role is to act in the best interests of the company's shareholders, which almost all of us are through our 401K programme," Busch wrote.
"The board deliberated through several meetings over several weeks and determined that the proposal was inadequate and not in the best interest of our shareholders, based on comparable transactions and our own plan."
He went on: "The board has been clear that it is open to considering any proposal that would provide full and certain value to Anheuser-Busch shareholders."
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