Carlos Brito, InBev chief executive, failed to assuage Washington politicians’ concerns on Tuesday about the Belgian brewer’s unsolicited $46.3bn bid for Anheuser-Busch, with one US senator saying opposing the deal was a “patriotic” thing to do.
Claire McCaskill, the junior Democratic senator from Missouri, where the US beer company is based, said after a meeting with Mr Brito that she would do everything she could to stop the deal from moving forward.
She said: “It would be great if the offer were rejected – because it would underline that America is not for sale.
“Anheuser has provided good middle-class jobs. It feels like to many people in this country right now that these are the kinds of jobs that are going away.”
Mr Brito, who requested the meeting with Ms McCaskill as part of his campaign to win support in Washington for the proposed takeover, countered the criticism by pointing to InBev’s plan to unleash the Anheuser brand on the world.
He said: “The people of St Louis will be even prouder when that happens.”
Mr Brito said he was not willing to bid above the $65 per share offer on the table. “Sixty-five is a great price, full price, so that’s it,” he said.
Anheuser has played its cards close to its chest, releasing no information on its deliberations over InBev’s offer other than to say it will eventually respond.
There have been no meetings between InBev and Anheuser since the formal offer was made last week, according to insiders.
Anheuser is, however, planning again this week to meet executives from Grupo Modelo, its Mexican partner, one person said.
The US brewer is evaluating whether it could strike a deal to buy the half of Modelo it does not own – or structure another transaction – that could scuttle InBev’s takeover attempt.
Ms McCaskill acknowledged there was little she could do to stop the deal and that it was not necessarily Congress’s job to get involved.
However, other foreign companies that have faced political opposition to sensitive transactions – such as CNOOC of China bidding for Unocal in 2005 – have been forced to walk away from unpopular deals even when there appeared to be little rationale for congressional involvement.
So far, opposition to the proposed bid has been limited to legislators who represent Missouri and Matt Blunt, its governor.
But if Anheuser’s board decided to fend off the bid, the company could probably garner more support on Capitol Hill. One of its lobbyists is Dick Gephardt, the former Democratic majority leader of the House who also advises Goldman Sachs. The bank is advising Anheuser.
Mr Brito is expected to receive a similarly bad reception at a meeting on Wednesday with Republican Kit Bond, the senior senator from Missouri.
He said Tuesday: “This is a bad idea. It is broadly opposed by the community and I look forward to expressing strong opposition directly.”
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