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So long, SAB - Anheuser-Busch InBev and the death of SABMiller - Editor's Viewpoint

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I'll spare you the 'Fat Lady' analogies but, if you have been hearing singing this week, it's likely to be Anheuser-Busch InBev staff in a good, post-deal-closure mood. Earlier this week, trading in SAB's shares came to an end, with the company's listings in Johannesburg and London being cancelled. The process that started 385 days ago has finally - finally - come to an end.

SABMiller, part of Anheuser-Busch InBev

SABMiller, part of Anheuser-Busch InBev

Anheuser-Busch InBev has completed its acquisition of SABMiller

(You'll forgive me a moment of personal reflection, but having covered every twist and turn of this bunk-up, it is with a sense of relief that I finally get to write that).

I remember it well: On 16 September last year, the wheel started to turn, with SAB confirming it had received notification from AB InBev of a possible takeover. Throughout the subsequent year-and-a-bit - and page upon page of news, analysis and comment on the saga's every development - two moments stand out for me. 

It was 10 November, and I was in New York with Diageo to cover the group's Capital Markets Day. The day before, I met up with AB InBev's VP of global communications at the company's corporate headquarters in the city. I've known Marianne Amssoms for most of my 13 years at just-drinks, so it was nice to see an old friend. With the next day set as a deadline for AB InBev to make a formal offer for SAB, I asked Marianne if she'd mind not announcing anything on the same day as Diageo's wall-to-wall presentations. A smile mixed with a grimace: "I'm going to admit to a slight conflict of interest about that idea, Olly," she said.

Fast forward to early-December, and I'm in central London, meeting up with the communications team at SAB, just around the corner from their headquarters at Stanhope Gate. The deal, by this point, is nailed on, and SAB's days - while not exactly numbered - were definitely on a countdown of sorts. Over Friday evening beers, we chat about the more recent developments. AB InBev CEO Carlos Brito had been over in the UK a few days prior, meeting staff at SAB UK's offices just outside London. We were off the record in the pub, I'm afraid, but the gallows humour and wry smiles of the comm's folk spoke volumes.

I'll not consider SAB's legacy here - the brewer has had a pretty healthy stab of doing so itself, earlier this week. What I will say, though, is that the loss of the company is one that will be felt not only by us here at just-drinks, but also by the beer category as a whole. The demise of what was the world's second-biggest brewer deprives the sector of a competitor that helped keep AB InBev, Heineken, Carlsberg and Molson Coors on their toes. The gulf between number one and number two - Heineken will have 10% global market share, behind AB InBev's post-divestiture 30% - is so great now, a whole new division of brewer has been created, and there is only one team in it.

So, thank you, to both AB InBev and SAB's diligent, hard-working and helpful communications folk for all your assistance over the past 13 months. To AB InBev, we look forward to covering what will be the world's most profitable consumer packaged goods company. Wherever your strategy takes you - PepsiCo? The Coca-Cola Co? - we shall watch and report on you with interest and vigour. And, to all of SAB's staff, we wish you all the best in your future endeavours, whatever industry they may be in.

As this week's de-listing announcements have filtered through, one thought hit me: The FTSE 100, the MSCI, the S&P 500 and the JSE All Share will all be a little less colourful now.

And, that's a sentence I never thought I'd write.


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