Foster execs defend sale to SABMiller

Foster execs defend sale to SABMiller

LONDON - Agence France-Presse
Foster execs defend sale to SABMiller

A Foster’s logo is seen on a beer pump at an Australian themed bar in west London. SABMiller has agreed to buy Foster’s Group for a sweetened price of $10.2 billion. REUTERS photo

Foster’s executives on Thursday defended the decision to approve a takeover for the iconic Australian brewer that 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 A$9.9 billion ($10.16 billion) from Anglo-South African brewer SABMiller.

It follows Foster’s rejection of a hostile bid from the same company, whose brands include Grolsch and Miller Lite, of A$9.51 billion in August.

Foster’s chief executive officer John Pollaers said the deal would open up new opportunities, adding that he did not expect opposition from 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 the firm, 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.

With Lion Nathan already in the hands of Japan’s Kirin, the Foster’s takeover will leave Coopers as the biggest Australian-owned beer company with around 4 percent of the market. SABMiller expects the takeover to be completed before the end of the year, following approval by Foster’s shareholders