Anheuser-Busch hires financial advisers: sources
PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - Anheuser-Busch Cos Inc hired Goldman Sachs Group Inc and Citigroup Inc as financial advisers as it braces for a potential takeover bid from Belgian brewing company InBev NV, sources familiar with the situation said on Monday.
InBev, the world's second-biggest brewer, has not yet decided whether to proceed with a bid for Anheuser-Busch, sources said. A merger of the two brewers has been rumored for the last 18 months.
Anheuser-Busch, Citigroup and Goldman Sachs all declined to comment. InBev could not be reached immediately for comment.
Anheuser-Busch is "doing all the normal things you do when you feel like you're under attack. You circle the wagons and stockpile food and ammunition," said one source, who declined to be named.
Even if Anheuser-Busch fails to get an offer from InBev, its financial advisers will help explore various strategic options, sources said.
According to media reports, InBev has been trying to arrange a $50 billion funding package from a group of banks, including JP Morgan Chase & Co and Banco Santander SA.
It still is premature to speculate about funding details since InBev has yet to decide on a bid for Anheuser-Busch, one source cautioned.
Yet, given the tight credit markets and the difficulty in raising funding for deals, InBev would need the assurance of financing before it could press ahead with a formal offer, other sources said.
InBev, the brewer of Stella Artois, Beck's and Brahma, is eager to reclaim the title of the world's biggest brewer that it lost to SABMiller Plc earlier this year and drive consolidation in the global brewing industry.
Although Anheuser-Busch operates in the mature and slow- growing U.S. beer market, it still owns the world's top two beer brands, Bud Light and Budweiser, which InBev could plug into its operations in South America, Europe and Asia, analysts have said.
Jack Cipriani, director of the Teamsters' brewery and soft drink workers conference, said on Monday he opposed the takeover. The union represents about 7,500 of Anheuser-Busch's 30,000 employees.
"We would like to see it remain an American company," Cipriani said of Anheuser-Busch. "Because it doesn't seem that employees fare well in our experience in the brewing industry when foreign suitors buy an American brewery."
Miller, once owned by Philip Morris, was acquired by South African Breweries in 2002 to form SABMiller Plc. SABMiller has since agreed to merge its U.S. operations with those of Molson Coors Brewing Co.
(Reporting by Jessica Hall in Philadelphia and Martinne Geller in New York; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Andre Grenon)
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