This is weird: the WSJ is running a story headlined "Without Modelo Aid, Bud Isn’t Likely to Parry InBev". The number of times that Grupo Modelo or any of its properties are mentioned in the story? Zero. Elsewhere, the WSJ is reporting that Anheuser-Busch is talking to Modelo. That’s right and proper: if they can somehow, miraculously, find more shareholder value in buying the Mexican company than in being taken over by InBev, that’s the way they should go, so the option is worth exploring.
But what puzzles me, and the thing which got me interested in the first headline, is the idea that a Bud-Modelo combination would be too expensive for InBev to buy. I’ve seen this sort of thing a lot:
Anheuser, which dominates the American beer market with its Budweiser, Bud Light and Michelob brands, already owns a roughly 50% stake in Modelo, best known in the U.S. for its Corona Extra brew. Acquiring the rest of the Mexican brewer could make the combined company too expensive for InBev.
Really? InBev is offering $46.4 billion for Anheuser-Busch. Adding 50% of Grupo Modelo would make the combined company worth, what, slightly over $50 billion? I don’t know, I haven’t seen anything in the way of estimates of how much a controlling stake in Modelo might be worth. But given that InBev is the leading brewer in Latin America and the most efficient brewer in the world, I’m sure it could make a strong case that it could squeeze extra value out of Modelo – a company the WSJ describes as "viewed by analysts as a poorly run company in need of a turnaround".
So I’m far from convinced that Modelo is a remotely effective poison pill – even if Modelo’s CEO, Carlos Fernandez, feels comfortable being treated that way. Besides, Bud-Modelo relations are hardly optimal:
Both companies also would have to put aside what people close to both of them describe as years of hostility and resentments that have built up during their partnership, which dates to the early 1990s.
Put it all together, and you end up with very little chance, I think, that a deal with Modelo is going to be able to derail a takeover by InBev. It probably won’t happen anyway, but even if it did, it wouldn’t send InBev packing. Or am I missing something here?