Now that the regulatory hurdles have been cleared and the shareholder votes are planned, the hard work of planning the integration of SABMiller (NASDAQOTH: SBMRY) into Anheuser-Busch InBev (NYSE: BUD) will begin -- assuming the merger will be approved. That's no sure thing as 75% of Miller's small investors need to vote in favor of the deal, but the brewers are planning for a successful conclusion, and that includes figuring out how they will generate savings and eliminate redundancies in operations.
Part of those savings will come from eliminating 5,500 jobs. In a filing with the SEC last week, Anheuser-Busch said approximately 3% of the workforce of the combined companies will be shed, but that the cuts would "be implemented gradually, in phases, over a three-year period." Whether those will include sales or front-office positions remains to be seen, because regulatory restrictions preclude the company from considering their necessity during integration planning.
The job losses are an integral part of Anheuser-Busch's planned cost savings strategy, which it believes will yield as much as $1.4 billion in cuts by the end of the fourth year, with fully one-quarter of that coming from synergies in raw material procurement and packaging improvements. Another 25% is expected to be achieved through efficiency gains to be found in better aligning brewery, bottling, and shipping productivity.
Yet A-B InBev and Miller together plan to spend almost $2 billion on bringing the deal to a close, including more than $1.7 billion spent on financing arrangements, $475 million in taxes, and $135 million for financial advice.
The costs and potential savings underscore why the brewers need this deal to go through, despite the high hurdle it faces at the shareholder votes. Anheuser-Busch had to use special privileges to entice large shareholders Altria (NYSE: MO) and Colombian bottling company BevCo to agree to the deal, which naturally caused smaller investors to feel put off by the unequal treatment. Further, after the value of the buyout bid fell sharply in the wake of the U.K.'s vote to leave the European Union, the bonuses that Altria and BevCo were being offered became even more lucrative, because they were getting non-trading shares in Anheuser-Busch that were unavailable to anyone else.
A-B InBev did itself no favors in the wake of the Brexit-related dip by only incrementally increasing the price per share it was offering for Miller, a bid even Miller's management admitted was at the very bottom of what it considered acceptable. With several significant shareholders still opposed to the deal, the merger votes could still go either way, but the promise of large job losses following the merger might just swing more shareholders against it.
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Rich Duprey has no position in any stocks mentioned.