InBev CEO says $65 a share for Busch is top offer

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The head of Belgian brewer InBev NV INTB.BR visited Capitol Hill on Tuesday to promote his company's takeover of Anheuser-Busch Cos Inc BUD.N to skeptical lawmakers and told reporters the $65 per share offer is the highest it would bid.

Carlos Brito, chief executive of InBev, the world's biggest brewer, presents the company's annual results in Leuven February 28, 2008. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

“No, $65 is a great price, full price, that’s it,” InBev chief executive Carlos Brito said in response to a reporter’s question on whether the price might have to go higher.

Brito spoke with journalists after meeting with a Missouri lawmaker who has expressed concern about the deal to acquire the St. Louis-based brewer, which makes Budweiser and Bud Light.

At that price per share, the deal would be worth about $46.3 billion. The shares closed up 1.1 percent at $61.20 in regular trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

But some analysts think InBev will go higher.

Tom Pirko, president of Bevmark, a Santa Barbara, California-based advisory firm, speculated last week that Anheuser would push for $68 or $70 per share and could ask as much as $75 before InBev would walk away.

When asked if InBev had reached out to one of Anheuser- Busch’s largest shareholders, legendary billionaire investor Warren Buffett, or to Mexican brewer Grupo Modelo, Brito responded: “Right now we’re trying to engage with their (Anheuser-Busch) board; that’s the top of the agenda.”

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Some reports have suggested Anheuser-Busch is looking at a possible link with Modelo GMODELOC.MX in which it owns a 50.2 percent stake, to help thwart the InBev bid.

Brito previously said he hoped for a friendly deal with Anheuser-Busch and would keep the company in St. Louis, Missouri.

The European company’s plan got a chilly reception from Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat who served Budweiser, Bud Lite and Bud Select to all the attendees.

Following her 45-minute meeting with Brito and other InBev officials, the first-term senator said: “I was very up front ... I explained to them that I would do everything I could to stop this sale from going through.”

McCaskill, who serves on the Senate Commerce Committee, added: “It’s very unclear that any of us (members of Congress) can do anything at this point” other than to express displeasure.

McCaskill was concerned the takeover could threaten pensions of Anheuser-Busch employees in her state, as well as jobs.

“This is a not a company that’s in stress and has provided good middle-class jobs,” she told reporters. “These are the kinds of jobs that are going away.”

On Wednesday, InBev executives are scheduled to meet with Missouri’s other U.S. senator, Republican Christopher Bond.

“This (deal) is a bad idea. It is broadly opposed by the community and I look forward to expressing strong opposition tomorrow,” Bond said in a statement.

Reporting by Richard Cowan, editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Andre Grenon