UK court sides with small shareholders on beer merger

SAB requested that those two shareholders- cigarette maker Altria Group and Bevco a vehicle of Colombia's Santo Domingo family- be treated as a separate class

LONDON-SABMiller PLC on Tuesday said a United Kingdom court had agreed to its proposal that its two largest shareholders be treated as a separate class from the rest of its investors with regard to its pending acquisition by Anheuser-Busch InBev NV.

The marriage of the world’s largest beer makers was agreed previous year with an offer of 44 pounds per share in cash for general shareholders and a discounted cash-and-stock offer aimed at the largest two – Altria Group (MO.N) and Bevco – to help them avoid large tax bills. The pound’s decline also weakened the dollar value of the takeover, causing AB InBev to raise the cash portion of the offer to 45 pounds a share after pressure from activist investors.

As a result of the approval, Altria Group, the U.S. tobacco giant, and BEVCO, the Santo Domingo family investment vehicle, will vote separately from other SABMiller shareholders on the deal.

Altria Group and Bevco have both signalled their support of the tie-up.

The shareholder vote requires 75% approval from shareholders.

SAB requested that those two shareholders – cigarette maker Altria Group and Bevco, a vehicle of Colombia’s Santo Domingo family – be treated as a separate class.

“I have jurisdiction to order a meeting of public shareholders to be summoned that does not include Altria and BevCo”, Snowden told the court.

Investors including Aberdeen Asset Management and hedge fund Elliot Engagement have raised concerns about the deal.

Voting will take place at meetings scheduled for 28 September, with the last date for decision revisions set for 4 October. AB InBev rose 1 percent to 112 euros.

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