SABMiller snaps up shares in Foster’s

SABMILLER has quietly bought around £120m shares in Foster’s over the course of several months as it pursues a hostile $10bn (£6bn) bid.

The Anglo-South African drinks giant built the stake through buying shares from hedge fund managers. It is understood this was done over the course of several months rather than a few days.

Bankers acting for SABMiller are understood to have purchased small blocks of shares at prices below the A$4.90-a-share offer price they have made public. There has also been a movement from arbitrage funds to buy small stakes in Foster’s.

SABMiller went hostile last Wednesday to take a second bid directly to shareholders in Foster’s, but the Australian firm has rejected both approaches.

A deal, which has been recommended by analysts at Macquarie, would join the brewer of Miller Lite, Peroni and Grolsch with the Melbourne-based maker of Victoria Bitter, Pure Blonde and Cascade beer, and would be the biggest deal since InBev paid $52bn (£26bn) to buy Anheuser-Busch to form AB InBev in the world’s biggest cash takeover in 2008.

The eyes of the City will be on Foster’s chief executive, John Pollaers, when he reveals full-year results tomorrow. They are expected to make dismal reading with beer profits tumbling.

Pollaers’ fightback could involve unveiling a capital return to shareholders worth between £300m and £600m, it is understood.

SABMiller declined to comment and no-one from Foster’s could be reached for comment yesterday.