The sharks are circling in the world of beer. In an effort to avoid a possible takeover by thirsty rival AB InBev, the world’s second largest brewer SABMiller has attempted its own acquisition of Dutch brewer Heineken.
Unfortunately for SABMiller, Heineken is still controlled by its founding family, which appears to have grown somewhat attached to the company over the last 150 years. Heineken demonstrated its disdain for the approach in a statement yesterday, saying it had informed SABMiller of its intention to 'preserve its heritage and identity as an independent firm'.
Rejection can sting at the best of times, but for SABMiller’s management, this is a matter of survival. There’s been speculation for months now that AB Inbev, the world’s largest brewer, wants to acquire SABMiller under less-than-friendly terms, and the Heineken offer was widely seen as an effort to create a firm too large for even AB InBev to down.
AB InBev already controls 19.7% of the world’s beer market, according to Euromonitor, having spent nearly $100bn (£61bn) over the last decade acquiring brands such as Budweiser and Corona. Had Heineken accepted SABMiller’s offer, the two brewers would have formed a company of comparable size.
SABMiller boss Alan Clark told Bloomberg in January there could be a case for a deal with AB Inbev, but if the Heineken bid’s anything to go by, he’s still looking for a different outcome. As it demonstrates his belief that attack is the best form of defence, a further approach to Heineken or to another major brewer remains on the cards.