May 7, 2021

DealBook: Foster’s Moves to Thwart SABMiller’s Hostile Bid

LONDON — In a bid to fend off a hostile takeover attempt by SABMiller, the Australian brewer Foster’s said on Tuesday that it would return at least $525 million to investors, potentially through a share buyback.

The news, which came as part of the company’s earnings announcement, pushed Foster’s shares to 4.99 Australian dollars, above SABMiller’s 4.90 a share offer. The move increased the possibility that SABMiller might have to raise its bid.

“Given the strength of Foster’s balance sheet, the board is also reviewing capital management options with a view to returning cash of at least 500 million to shareholders during the next 12 months,” John Pollaers, Foster’s chief executive, said in a statement.

SABMiller, one of the world’s largest brewers whose brands includes Peroni and Castle, said last week that it would take its $10 billion bid for Foster’s directly to shareholders, two months after the Foster’s board rejected the offer as too low. Some analysts said previously that SABMiller would have to raise its offer to at least 5 Australian dollars a share to succeed.

With the plan, Foster’s is looking to win the backing of its own shareholders against SABMiller’s bid. The step is likely to buy Foster’s more time to seek a higher price or take further actions to maintain its independence in an increasingly consolidated industry.

The Foster’s takeover defense strategy “has been revealed and offers few real surprises,” a group of Citigroup analysts wrote in a research note. The company said it planned to reduce costs by 55 million dollars on an annual basis before the end of 2013.

As part of its bid, SABMiller has said it would reduce its offer price by any dividend amount paid by Foster’s, which said on Tuesday that it would pay a second-half dividend of 13.25 Australian cents a share. Shares in SABMiller rose 1.6 percent in London on Tuesday in early afternoon trading.

Foster’s also said on Tuesday that it had a net loss of 89 million dollars in the 12 months that ended in June, in large part as a result of a charge of 1.2 billion dollars linked to the spinoff of its wine business. Operating profit was 817 million dollars, a result that broadly met analysts’ expectations.

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