InBev CEO made lots of promises in $52B A-B deal

With eight acquisitions in four years, InBev CEO Carlos Brito has learned some things about takeovers.

One, he says, will be to live up to the promises that he made while courting A-B bud for the $52 billion buyout agreed to early Monday.

During the sometimes rocky courtship, InBev vowed to evoke A-B's heritage in a new company name, keep the 12 U.S. breweries, keep St. Louis as A-B's home and give A-B seats on the new company board.

All, he says, are part of the final deal to create Anheuser-Busch InBev, of which he'll be CEO. "I have to prove myself," Brito said in a phone interview. "The first proof of it was the name. It's a small thing, but it's the first thing."

He also agreed to keep A-B in St. Louis and keep the breweries open, though he did not rule out possible layoffs.

Current A-B CEO August Busch IV will take one of two non-executive A-B seats on the board. Said Busch, in a Monday conference call, "I'm confident in Brito's leadership and that he is a man of his word."

First, Brito has to get shareholder and regulatory OKs. A-B shareholders, who'll get $70 a share, are expected to approve. He sees regulatory clearance by year's end, "because this is a deal about complementary operations, not overlapping."

He will visit St. Louis this week to meet employees and top executives and begin forming a team: "Identifying people, opportunities and roles is one of the things we most like to do."

Other items on Brito's to-do list:

•Cut costs. A-B attempted to rebuff InBev's initial offer with a $1 billion cost-saving plan. InBev built on that plan, which included more than 1,000 white-collar early retirements and the shedding of non-core assets. A-B's packaging and theme-park units are possible targets.

•Appease Grupo Modelo. The Corona brewer has an opportunity to buy back A-B's 50% stake in a change of ownership. "We think we can be a great partner and see this offer as no impediment to Modelo," Brito says.

• Grow A-B globally. Brito has plans for Europe, Latin America and Asia. "Budweiser has great potential outside the U.S.," says Brito.

•Build U.S. buzz A-B has half the U.S. beer market, but Brito says it can grow more with Bud Light Lime, which has grabbed a 2% market share since its April rollout, and Budweiser and Bud Light in Chelada flavors, which add clam juice and hot sauce. "They bring news into the franchise and main brand," he says.

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