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AB InBev agrees concessions with South Africa over SAB deal

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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Anheuser-Busch InBev will invest 1 billion rand ($69 million) to support small South African farmers as part of concessions agreed with the government to secure regulatory approval for its $100 billion-plus takeover of SABMiller, it said on Thursday.

The world’s biggest brewer said the concessions, which also include a five-year freeze on layoffs, were agreed with the South African Ministry of Economic Development.

“It is expected that the agreement on terms between government and the merger parties will expedite the merger proceedings before the South African competition authorities,” AB InBev said.

“The commitments made by the company are the most extensive merger-specific undertakings made to date in a large merger. In our view, they meet the requirements of the competition legislation,” Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel said.

South African Competition Commission this week extended its scrutiny of the deal, saying it needed at another 15 days to complete its investigation. It has already extended the deadline four times.

South Africa has a history of taking its time over approving takeovers partly because competition authorities have a public interest mandate to safeguard jobs, in addition to an anti-trust mandate to protect competition.

In 2011, the regulator told U.S. retailer Wal-Mart Stores not to cut jobs for two years following its acquisition of South African retailer Massmart, delaying implementation of the $2.4 billion deal by at least two months.

The Commission investigates deals for any anti-trust issues and submits its views to the Competition Tribunal, which makes a final ruling on whether a deal should go ahead

Ab InBev has already told European regulators of its plan to sell SABMiller’s premium European brands to try to secure approval for its deal.

($1 = 14.5350 rand)


(Reporting by Tiisetso Motsoeneng; Editing by Jane Merriman)

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East African Breweries to make more cheap beer as taxes rise

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NAIROBI (Reuters) – Kenya’s East African Breweries Ltd (EABL) expects a hike in beer excise duty to hit demand in its home market in the coming months and will raise output of a lower-taxed cheap brand in an attempt to offset the impact, its CEO said on Friday.

Last month, Kenya lifted the excise tax by 43 percent to 100 shillings ($0.9785) per liter of beer, driving up retail prices by at least 20 shillings per bottle.

“Kenyan consumers are incredibly price sensitive so moving up by 20 shillings is a big deal,” said Charles Ireland, group CEO of EABL, which is controlled by Britain’s Diageo.

The hike in excise duty, designed to shore up government revenues, was the first one in four years.

“I would prefer that we saw a more regular increase which was smaller rather than an irregular increase, which is bigger, because I think the impact for consumers and the trade would be more manageable,” Ireland said.

EABL plans to boost the output of its cheaper Senator Keg beer, which is taxed at a rate of 10 shillings per litre, to offset the impact of the taxes on mainstream and premium beers.

Sales of Senator Keg, which is dispensed in mugs from barrels in bars, recovered during the company’s fiscal first half to December, after the government rowed back on a 2013 decision to tax it at the same rate as mainstream beers such as Tusker.

“We have got some additional capacity coming online so we will be able to sell more Senator into the market in the (fiscal) second half,” Ireland said.

Beer exports into South Sudan, which plummeted 74 percent in the first half due to civil conflict, were not expected to rebound soon, the chief executive said.

“The outlook is bleak. I don’t think that South Sudan will improve in the short-term,” he said.

EABL boosted its interim dividend by a third, as net debt fell and the company generated more cash, and Ireland said it would keep rewarding shareholders if profit growth was maintained.

First-half profit after tax from operations rose 16 percent as sales grew and net finance costs dropped by 38 percent.

“I hope it will continue, and if it does, we will be kind of looking to make sure our shareholders benefit from that performance,” Ireland said.

“We are getting into a decent shape from a balance sheet perspective.”

($1 = 102.2000 Kenyan shillings)


(By Duncan Miriri. Editing by Mark Potter)

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