Foster's chief defends sale of Australian brewer
Foster's executives on Thursday defended the decision to approve a takeover for the Australian brewer which will put it in foreign hands for the first time in its 150-year history.
The beer giant, which produces VB and Crown Lager, has agreed to an improved offer worth Aus$9.9 billion (US$10.16 billion) from Anglo-South African brewer SABMiller, or Aus$5.10 per share.
It follows Foster's rejecting a hostile bid from the same company, whose brands include Grolsch and Miller Lite, of Aus$9.51 billion in August.
Shares in the Australian brewer were trading at Aus$5.26 mid-morning.
Foster's chief executive officer John Pollaers said the deal would open up new opportunities and he did not expect opposition from the government or regulators.
"Ultimately this is a great deal for a company and frankly a great deal for the staff and our customers," he told ABC television.
But not everyone is happy that a company whose origins in Melbourne date back to the 1850s was falling into foreign hands.
Former Foster's chief John Elliot said he was aghast and hit out at management.
"It is a disaster. One of the great Australian icons is now gone because of exceptionally bad management and an exceptionally bad board," he told The Australian newspaper.
There had been concern that Foster's head office would not remain in Australia, but Pollaers said "you can't really move a brewery making VB anywhere else".
"So I think you'll continue to see heavy investment in our business in Australia."
He added that he believed SABMiller was committed to doing "what's right" to keep the workforce in Australia, but would not be drawn on possible job cuts.
"All I can say is that I had a very personal, warm conversation with Graham Mackay, the CEO of SABMiller ... and he believes, as I do, in the future of this business and in the people and the importance of this business to Australia."
SABMiller expects the takeover to be completed before the end of 2011, following approval by Foster's shareholders.
"We look forward to working with Foster's employees and other stakeholders to ensure the success of Foster's in the future as the largest brewer in Australia with an outstanding portfolio of brands," Mackay said.
A takeover of Foster's had been expected since the group's recent demerger of operations and amid consolidation within the Australian beverage industry.
© 2011 AFP