SABMiller makes $750m deal with black investors

World No. 2 brewer SABMiller will sell 10 percent of its South African unit to black investors in a deal worth $750 million to meet the country’s affirmative action rules, it said on Wednesday.

The London-based brewer of Miller Lite, Peroni and Castle beers said its black staff and black-owned retailers of SAB’s alcoholic and soft drinks would be issued with new shares, funded through dividends over 10 years.

Companies in South Africa have to meet quotas on black ownership, employment and procurement as part of a government drive to shift more of the mostly white-controlled economy into the hands of the black majority.

The black investors will inject a small amount of cash and the rest will be funded via dividends over 10 years. External bank funding will not be required.

The transaction will cost SABMiller about $220 million, most of which will be taken as a non-cash cost in its 2011 financial year, and will be excluded from adjusted earnings.

At the end of the 10-year transaction period, the shares in local unit South African Breweries will be exchanged for SABMiller shares. The deal boosts SAB’s overall black ownership quota to 16 percent, the company said.

SABMiller’s shares gained 2.1 percent in London and 1.78 percent in Johannesburg, in line with broadly positive markets.

South African Breweries is one of South Africa’s biggest and oldest companies, formed in 1895 a decade after the start of the gold rush. It expanded rapidly abroad after the end of apartheid, becoming SABMiller, with its headquarters in London.

Companies operating in South Africa that fail to meet black economic empowerment (BEE) targets cannot do business with the government, or with other firms eyeing government contracts.

Some firms have come under fire for securing black investor deals that benefit only a small black elite, often linked to the ruling ANC, so SABMiller stressed this deal benefited the broader black community.

“We were determined to design a transaction that would deliver truly broad-based and tangible benefits,” Norman Adami, Managing Director of SAB, said.

Several BEE deals have collapsed in recent months as the value of shares used as collatoral in complex and debt-heavy schemes slid, forcing companies to inject more cash. SABMiller said its deal was more sustainable because it did not depend on external funding.

The company, which said the deal would have no impact on its 2010 earnings, added the transaction would help it attract and retain black staff and proved an incentive for retailers to secure liquor licences.

Community groups would also benefit through the SAB Foundation. The final size and structure of the deal would be determined after SABMiller’s interim results.

Source: Reuters

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