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How Altria Will Benefit From the AB InBev-SABMiller Merger

By Nicholas Rossolillo – Oct 7, 2016 at 9:12AM

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Altria will own a sizable interest in the new giant beer maker. Here is what investors need to know.

Image source: AB InBev.

The SABMiller (NASDAQOTH: SBMRY) merger with Budweiser maker AB InBev (BUD 0.51%) isn't just about beer. Cigarette giant Altria (MO 0.27%) owns a large stake in SABMiller and stands to receive a sizable sum of cash and a large equity stake in the new business now that the merger has been approved.

What Altria will get

Shareholders recently gave the OK for SABMiller to merge into the global AB InBev conglomerate. Regulators have also given their go-ahead, and SABMiller will begin trading under its new parent company starting on Oct. 11.

Altria has a 27% ownership and voting stake in SABMiller. Upon completion of the deal, that 27% interest gets converted into a 10.5% interest in the new company, two seats on the new board of directors, and approximately $3 billion in pre-tax cash.

The megamerger will result in the new AB InBev controlling about 46% of global beer profits and 27% of the world's beer production. The transaction's advantage for AB InBev is that it reduces reliance on the company's biggest U.S. and Brazilian beer markets. Africa, which in the beginning of the new company's existence will account for about 9% of revenue, will become a key focus of growth.

Altria's business strategy

Altria derives the lion's share of its business from cigarette and other tobacco product sales. The company is best known for its flagship brand Marlboro.

However, in recent years Altria and other tobacco companies have been dealing with declining sales of cigarettes. While those declines have been more than offset by price increases, Altria has gone the extra distance to diversify business. While tobacco is still its bread and butter, electronic-cigarette and wine sales have been on the rise for Altria.

During the last reported quarter, Altria's wine revenues increased 6.2% over the previous year, primarily due to higher sales volume. Wine revenue as a percentage of total company revenue was at 2.6%, up from 2.4% of total revenue in the year-ago quarter. The SABMiller interest contributed $0.06 per share of the reported $1.53 earnings per share through the first six months of 2016.

While wine, e-cigs, and beer make up a very small percentage of Altria's total business, the company continues to look for ways to grow its non-tobacco sales and profit. This will become increasingly important if cigarette and tobacco use in the U.S. continue to decline and come under increasing pressure from regulators and the general public.

What should investors do?

The news of the SABMiller deal with AB InBev has generated buzz and excitement for shareholders in those two companies. Altria investors are also no doubt excited and non-shareholders may be tempted to jump on the Altria train at the announcement that the deal is going through. However, caution is in order.

The deal has been public knowledge for quite some time, along with what Altria stands to gain. During Altria's last report at the end of July, the final details from Altria's perspective were announced. At this point, the merger benefit is already baked in to current share prices, so investors should avoid buying Altria solely on the news that the merger has the necessary final OKs.

Nicholas Rossolillo has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Anheuser-Busch InBev NV. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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