For a few dollars more
The problem with Anheuser Busch’s defence strategy is that it makes the Budweiser-maker an even more enticing target for InBev, for if the St Louis-based brewer can trim costs so easily how much more can the ruthless cost cutters at InBev take out?
Anheuser would have a stronger case if it had a stronger track record as a cost controller. But while top executives at InBev are said to travel the Atlantic in economy class, Anheuser has a fleet of Falcon executive jets and Bell helicopters.
So if Anheuser can cut $1 billion in costs by 2010 what can InBev do? The Brazilian-led management have been reported to be looking at $1.4 billion, and perhaps even more once the aircraft are put on the block.
Moreover, the St Louis management want to keep their SeaWorld theme parks and still make some of their beer packaging, while InBev sees vertical integration as a thing of past and would put these non-core assets up for sale for $4 billion plus.
InBev can probably afford to increase its cash bid to $70 per Anheuser share from the current $65 before the deal becomes less compelling, but until it makes a higher bid the market will fret it may turn to equity to bridge the $5 gap rather than raise more debt or promise to sell down Anheuser’s 50 percent stake in Mexican brewer Modelo.
It probably needs only a few dollars more per share for a winning bid, but InBev will be in no hurry with global markets tumbling, Anheuser’s defence plan unconvincing and a Delaware court case which may oust Anheuser directors still to be decided.