Should You Invest In This Big Beer Merger?

At the risk of sounding anti-American, I have to begin by saying this...

I don't like Budweiser.

But if I have a redeeming, patriotic leg to stand on, it's that I'm a huge fan of craft beers, and really, what's more American than a little upstart with passion and hops?

One of my good friends is a master brewer in the midst of opening his own brewery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, home of the Brewers, and, yes, the Champagne of Beers, Miller High Life, along with many, many others. There are already a number of popular craft beers in the area, but the market just keeps growing.

That may be one reason why such big beer behemoths like Anheuser Busch-InBev (NYSE: BUD ) and SABMiller ( SBMRY ) are making a deal.

News of the potential deal came out last November, but needed approval from a number of bodies, including the U.S. Justice Department. That approval could come as early as this month. The combined companies would then account for almost a third of the world's beer, according to Reuters.

The deal is worth a reported $107 billion, making it the biggest brewer by capitalization.

But why are these two companies merging?

As early as October 2015, before a deal was even certain, Forbes had this to say about why BUD was pursuing SAB:

"AB InBev's history offers testimony to the company's acquisitive character, documenting how the brewer has looked to acquire companies that hold dominant or promising positions in local markets, to further its reach in beer. Inbev was formed in 2004, when the Belgian company Interbrew and the Brazilian company Ambev came together. In 2008, InBev and Anheuser-Busch combined to form Anheuser-Busch InBev, with around $54.8 billion required to fund the deal. The $20.1 billion deal to complete the acquisition of the Mexican Grupo Modelo followed in 2013, and the re-acquisition of the South Korean Oriental Brewery for $5.8 billion early in 2014 further highlights AB InBev and its largest shareholders 3G Capital Partners' strategy for the future."

In other words, it's growth through acquisition.

And SAB has a huge market share in what could be the fastest-growing beer market in the world: Africa.

Take a look at this map from BUD's January 2016 presentation.

The countries in yellow represent places where SAB holds a large footprint. The red countries are where BUD holds sway. The pink countries are where both companies have significant market share.

According to BUD, Africa's share of the world beer volume will have nearly doubled between 2000 and 2025 to 8.1%. That growth rate is three times the global growth rate... and SAB dominates. This is the main reason why BUD wants to acquire SAB.

Investors seem to think this tie-up is a good idea. The combined company will have revenues of $64 billion, putting it in the top five consumer goods companies.

And back in October, when Forbes reported on the potential deal, it gave BUD a price target of $120. As of June 1, BUD was trading for $129.

But where do they go from here?

BUD estimates that the combined company would save $1.4 billion a year in cost synergies. Now, analysts think BUD shares could climb as high as $157, about 24% higher than current prices.

That price is certainly attainable, though ambitious in the near-term. Over the past five years, BUD shares have climbed 126.05%. That's more than 25.5% a year on average. So that 24% target fits with the current trajectory, should BUD shares maintain momentum.

What about SAB?

Over the past five years, SAB has climbed more than 97%. While not the same growth as BUD, it's still a nice push higher. Analysts aren't quite as excited about this company, though, with the highest price target only 8.9% higher than current prices and the overwhelming majority rating the stock a hold.

With this in mind, I'm inclined to like BUD for once in my life... At least, the stock, that is.

Risks To Consider: While BUD and SAB have jumped through hurdles to gain approval in South Africa and Europe, the deal is still waiting on approval from the United States and China. Either could suddenly say no, or require more accommodation through selling off assets that would impinge on competition.

Any such hiccup in the approval process would impact share prices negatively, and even stop the deal altogether.

But with both South Africa and Europe approving the deal, it's unlikely that the United States or China will block it from going forward. We will know sometime this month if the United States will approve the deal. More risk-averse investors could wait until the announcement to make a purchase.

Action To Take: This deal has been a long-time coming, though, and the two companies appear to be in it for the long-haul. Longer-term investors can grab shares on pullbacks leading up to the expected approval, and hold Anheuser-Busch InBev (NYSE: BUD ) through the massive growth potential in Africa over the next decade.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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