Whether in the U.S. or halfway around the globe, the rivalry between beer's top dog, Anheuser-Busch
No longer an afterthought in Altria Group's
Yet while the companies bicker publicly over the saturated U.S. market, and distant third Coors
The two beer makers tried to woo the Chinese company's shareholders with very different approaches. Miller's strategy bordered on arrogant, as the company made clear its intention to merge Harbin with another of its Chinese interests. Not surprisingly, Harbin's management was less than thrilled with this idea, forcing SABMiller to accompany the hostile bid with assurances that Harbin's brands and employees would be protected.
Contrast SABMiller's action with that taken by Anheuser-Busch. Rather than launch an immediate counteroffer for Harbin, the company played politics first by donating $8 million to the city of Harbin, establishing a fund to promote economic development. Then the company outbid its rival, offering HK$5.58 per share ($0.72) for the outstanding shares -- roughly 35 times earnings -- with assurances that Harbin would remain independent.
Everywhere in the world business is about relationships, but particularly in Asia. China's beer market is ripe for takeovers, but still largely controlled by the state. Humility and respect are in order if foreign companies wish to be successful in this land, something Anheuser-Busch apparently understands. We'll see if its South African colleagues learn this lesson.
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Fool contributor Chris Mallon is excited to see the Budweiser lizards back in action and owns shares of Anheuser-Busch and Altria through his private investment partnership.