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Editor's Viewpoint - AB InBev and SABMiller – We (all) told you so

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Today's confirmation that Anheuser-Busch InBev is exploring a bid for SABMiller will have come as a surprise to precisely nobody in the global beer industry. And, while it is by no means a done-deal, there's still a certain sense of inevitability about it that many have felt for quite a while now.

Of course, we all knew this would happen

Of course, we all knew this would happen

This morning, SABMiller said that it had received notification from ABI that it is considering a takeover of the UK-headquartered brewer. A subsequent statement from ABI echoed the news, with both sides warning that an actual offer was not yet certain.

To my mind, the first time a tie-up reared its head was in early-2011, when analysts at Credit Suisse floated the idea. Three years on from InBev's swallowing of Anheuser-Busch, the dust had clearly settled enough for observers to start to ponder: What's next?

Fast forward two years and the speculation had reared its head so regularly – and so often - that I was moved to plead with anyone who'd listen for an end to the incessant chatter.

Of course, nothing is done and dusted just yet. As our regular beer commentator, Larry Nelson, warns us today, there's still a way to go before ABI has to put up or shut up in mid-October.

One question to consider in the meantime: Is it now fair to say that SABMiller's attempts to put obstacles in ABI's way (which sounds eerily similar to a recurring dream of mine), has failed? Last year's failed approach of Heineken was clearly such an attempt, while November's creation of Coca-Cola Beverages Africa by SAB, The Coca-Cola Co and the majority shareholders in Coca-Cola Sabco was seen by many as another attempted spanner in the works. In South America, you see, ABI's Ambev division has a few PepsiCo bottling agreements in place.

The one that got away, however, looks like having been Brazil's privately-owned Petropolis. And, with AmBev not so much dominating as owning the country's beer market – and with ABI's strong Brazilian origin and ethos – would a dirty protest in its own back yard have put ABI off moving for SAB?

That's just a maybe. What is a definite, though, is that we can all safely lay claim to having seen today's news coming from quite some way off.

For just-drinks' full coverage of Anheuser-Busch InBev's approach for SABMiller, click here.


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