SAB Miller's £71bn sale is facing growing shareholder pressure as Aberdeen Asset Management reportedly joins the rebellion

Mark Sands
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Will shareholders of Peroni maker SAB Miller say "cheers" if the firm's sale to AB InBev collapses? (Source: Getty)

The long-awaited takeover of SAB Miller has reportedly been left on a knife edge by growing shareholder concerns on sterling's depreciation, even as analysis shows the total number of deals since last month's Brexit vote holding up.

Shareholders have raised fears that the cash value Anheuser-Busch InBev's £71bn purchase has plummeted alongside the strength of sterling since last month vote.

And now The Sunday Times reports that Aberdeen Asset Management has demanded the brewer's board reconsider the cash element of the deal.

SAB Miller declined to comment, however the brewer's chairman, Jan du Plessis, has pledged to "take into consideration all relevant facts and circumstances" before issues a fresh scheme document to shareholders with the latest recommendations from the SAB board.

Read More: Revenues up at SABMiller as it inches closer to completion on Megabrew deal

Aberdeen and AB InBev did not respond to requests for comment.

It comes as Reuters data shows that the total numbers of takeovers completed in the month since the Brexit vote has dropped from 79 in June to 60 in July, while the total value has climbed, largely due to Softbank's $32bn (£24.3bn) deal for UK chipmaker Arm Holdings.

Excluding the Japanese firm's buy, just $2.5bn of deals would have been agreed since the referendum, down from $4.3bn in the month prior.

But experts say that even with the reduction, M&A is outperforming expectations, with British companies 10 per cent to 15 per cent cheaper for overseas buyers due to the devaluation of the pound which was trading at $1.31 on July 22 against $1.50 the day before the referendum.

"Clearly this is a buying opportunity," said Ben Ward, head of UK corporate at law firm Herbert Smith Freehills. "People with strong currencies – dollar, renminbi, yen – will no doubt be interested in acquiring sound sterling-denominated assets."

"When you have a material currency discontinuity it makes sense to dust off previous M&A analyses and crunch the numbers again," said Paulo Pereira, a partner at boutique advisory firm Perella Weinberg.

Pricing aside, however, deals will still be tough for overseas buyers who must evaluate the uncertainty surrounding Britain's future relationship with the EU, and the prospects of a messy divorce that may take several years to conclude.

Additionally, any sizable takeover could face tighter government scrutiny, after Prime Minister Theresa May pledged to oppose deals for British champions not deemed "in the national interest".

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