Commentary: Is there Money for Berkshire in an A-B InBev Merger with SABMiller?

(BRK.A), (BRK.B)

As soon as the news hit that a megamerger was in discussion between Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller, my first thought was “Is there money to be made for Berkshire?”

There sure is.

A merger of Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller would create a $275 billion company, and would need somewhere around $100 billion in financing to complete the deal.

With Anheuser-Busch InBev controlled by Brazilian private equity firm 3G Capital Management, it would be logical that such a mammoth deal could use at least some financing from Berkshire Hathaway.

The companies previously collaborated on 3G’s Burger King takeover of Tim Hortons, and 3G and Berkshire’s worked jointly to takeover A. J. Heinz, and later to merge it with Kraft Foods Group.

Berkshire and 3G clearly like working together because each provides half of a winning formula. Berkshire produces a lot of cash that needs to be put to work, and 3G is an acquirer of large-scale, high quality assets for which it provides management that aggressively wrings out savings that flow back to shareholders.

Any takeover by Anheuser-Busch InBev of SABMiller is sure to face antitrust issues, as the combined company would own 30% of the global beer market, but if it could get by regulators, here’s what to expect.

Preferred Stock Financing

For the past decade, Warren Buffett has especially used the issuance of preferred shares that pay Berkshire a fixed dividend in exchange for billions in financing.

Buffett’s love of preferred stock financing provided much needed cash to Goldman Sachs, Wrigley, and Bank of America during the Great Recession, and more recently helped 3G finance its Burger King/Tim Hortons merger and the A. J. Heinz and subsequent Kraft Heinz deals. In each deal, Berkshire ended up receiving juicy dividends that ranged from 6% in the case of Bank of America to 9% with Burger King/Tim Hortons.

Common Stock for Berkshire

An Anheuser-Busch InBev/SABMiller merger would likely give Berkshire a sizeable common stock position as well. For example, in providing financing for 3G’s Burger King takeover of Tim Hortons, Berkshire received warrants for 8,438,225 shares of the new combined company, Restaurant Brands International Inc., for a penny a share. The warrants came attached to 68,530,939 Class A 9.00% Cumulative Compounding Perpetual Preferred Shares, and gave Berkshire 4.18% of the outstanding Common Shares and 14.37% of the total number of votes attached to all outstanding voting shares of the Corporation.

Berkshire as the Linchpin

With 3G’s Burger King merger, Berkshire provided roughly 25% of the financing and was the linchpin that quickly brought other financing to the deal. When Warren Buffett wants in, others surely follow.

Look for Berkshire to take a portion of any Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller deal if regulators ever allow it to happen.

© 2015 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.