John Smith’s owner rebuffs approach from SABMiller

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DUTCH BREWER Heineken, which makes John Smith’s at Tadcaster, has rebuffed a takeover approach from SABMiller.

The brewer of Pilsner Urquell, Grolsch and Peroni Nastro Azzurro has been told that Heineken’s founding family are determined to keep the firm’s independent status.

The move by SABMiller, which is listed on the London Stock Exchange, is being seen as a pre-emptive measure in order to prevent itself from becoming a takeover target for Stella Artois maker AB InBev.

Speculation about an AB InBev move on SABMiller has been circulating for months, as the world leader - known for its aggressive merger strategy - has largely digested its last acquisition.

Heineken’s UK business employs around 2,000 people at eight sites, including breweries or cider plants at Edinburgh, Livingston, Tadcaster, Manchester, London, Hereford and Ledbury.

It employs 300 people at Tadcaster in brewing, support services and sales. The site produces John Smith’s, Murphy’s Stout and Newcastle Brown Ale.

Heineken’s controlling shareholders are the De-Carvalho family with a 50.1 per cent stake in the Amsterdam-based business. The company is worth around £27 billion, compared with £55 billion for SABMiller.

The Dutch firm said that SABMiller’s proposal was “non-actionable”.

It added: “The Heineken family has informed SABMiller and Heineken of its intention to preserve the heritage and identity of Heineken as an independent company.

“The Heineken family and Heineken’s management are confident that the company will continue to deliver growth and shareholder value.”

In 2002, South Africa’s SAB acquired the Miller Brewing Company, the second largest brewer in the United States.

In 2007 it acquired Grolsch and a year later combined Miller Brewing Company with the US business of Molson Coors to create its MillerCoors joint venture. In 2011 it acquired the Foster’s Group in Australia.

Today, the company employs 70,000 people in more than 80 countries and is also one of the world’s largest bottlers of Coca-Cola drinks.

Tom Dougherty.

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