Anheuser-Busch InBev (NYSE:BUD) remains committed to reducing its debt load after announcing last week it was selling a 49.9% stake in its metal container plants for $3 billion and would use the proceeds to help pay down its debt.

That share of the U.S.-based facilities is being acquired by a group of institutional investors led by Apollo Global Management (NYSE:APO).

Cans of Budweiser beer

Image source: Anheuser-Busch InBev.

The brewer's debt load is massive at around $73 billion at the end of the third quarter. It built up most of the debt as a result of its acquisition of SABMiller in 2016 for $104 billion, but had been on a debt reduction diet since then, selling off assets to pay down the balance.

But when the coronavirus pandemic struck, Anheuser-Busch drew down the entirety of its $9 billion credit line and first cut its dividend payment, then suspended it to conserve cash. Consumers changed from drinking at bars and restaurants during the crisis to drinking at home, cutting off a source of revenue.

The brewer, though, has since resumed its debt reduction program, and the deal with Apollo allows Anheuser-Busch to retain control of the facilities. It entered into a long-term supply agreement for cans over the duration of the arrangement, and after five years from the close of the transaction the brewer has the right, though not the obligation, to buy back the stake. The company expects the deal to close by Jan. 8.

Anheuser-Busch says it prefers to have its net debt at about twice the level of EBITDA, but currently it is closer to 4.8 times. The brewer has said it intends to continue its deleveraging efforts and will prioritize debt repayment to achieve that goal.

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