With Anheuser-Busch InBev thought to be circling, has SABMiller blinked?

With Anheuser-Busch InBev thought to be circling, has SABMiller blinked?

Heineken's announcement earlier today of an approach by SABMiller confirms what some observers have warned in recent months: The 'Mega-Merger' is most definitely on. What is somewhat alarming, however, is that the London-headquartered brewer has finally blinked - and is clearly on the run.

When reports broke over the weekend of a move by SABMiller for Heineken, neither of the two brewers would comment. However, a statement this morning from Heineken conceded that it had held talks with SAB, but decided it prefers to remain independent.

The backdrop to this development is the so-called 'Mega-Merger', Anheuser-Busch InBev's long-thought desire to dominate the global brewing landscape by acquiring SABMiller. Based more on perceptions of A-B InBev's leadership – driven, ruthless Brazilians hell-bent on ruling the brewing world – than on any official policy, 'Mega-Merger' has loomed large for the better part of six years, since InBev swallowed Anheuser-Busch in late-2008.

Today, the concept is no longer conjecture but reality, and no-one is more aware of this than SABMiller.

That's not to say that every claim regarding SAB in recent months has necessarily been true. Talk earlier this year linking the brewer to Diageo still seems unlikely to me. But, Heineken's statement indicates that SAB is actively considering its options with A-B InBev's shadow growing ever larger and darker. And, I doubt SAB will have appreciated Heineken indirectly showing the world its hand.

There are some analysts out there who have maintained that any move by A-B InBev for SAB would be doomed to failure, with SAB's Altria shareholder – which owns a 28% stake – thought to be far keener on generating a regular return rather than a one-off über payday.

Those observers will have suffered a rude awakening this morning. As, I would imagine, has SABMiller.