Foster’s board under fire as it predicts rising beer sales

City A.M. Reporter
FOSTER’S Group, Australia’s largest brewer, said it expects beer sales to pick up again when the economy improves, fuelling small shareholder anger at the company’s capitulation to a $10.4bn (£6.5bn) takeover by global giant SABMiller.

Foster’s executives were forced to defend the takeover before around 200 shareholders at the firm’s annual meeting, saying the deal offered the certainty of cash in a volatile global environment.

“You are now presenting us with a bright future for Foster’s and you are turning around and getting rid of this company.

“It is disgraceful of the board,” said shareholder Douglas Fleming.

Foster’s agreed to accept a sweetened A$9.9bn (£6.46bn) offer after an acrimonious three-month battle by SABMiller to win over management.

Foster’s, the maker of Victoria Bitter, Carlton Draught and Pure Blonde, will also undertake a 30 cents-a-share capital return and pay a final dividend of 13.25 cents under the deal.

The takeover, which requires approval of 75 per cent of votes at a meeting due in early December, has wide support from institutional investors.

Chief executive John Pollaers told shareholders the company was planning a “massive” marketing campaign over the next few months to help arrest the slide in volumes.

“We believe that once Australia moves through this period of economic uncertainty, the beer category will return to the long-term trend of moderate growth,” Pollaers said.