SABMiller Investors to Be Treated Separately for AB InBev Vote

The U.K. High Court ruled that SABMiller Plc’s two biggest investors should be treated separately to others when voting on Anheuser-Busch InBev NV’s takeover offer, raising the hurdle for getting sufficient shareholder support for the deal.

SABMiller will now need at least 75 percent of other voting shareholders to give their assent, and its two largest holders, BevCo Ltd. and Altria Group Inc., will be considered separately. The split was ordered after some investors expressed disquiet about a so-called partial share alternative designed as a tax-friendly option for the two biggest investors, who own about 41 percent of the stock between them.

SABMiller shares fell 0.2 percent to 4,370 pence at 11:19 a.m. in London, having traded slightly higher before the ruling was announced. AB InBev rose 1 percent to 112 euros.

Tobacco maker Altria, SABMiller’s largest shareholder with about a 26 percent stake, had opposed the separation in a letter to SABMiller Chairman Jan du Plessis, according to evidence shown in court Monday.

The value of the partial share alternative surpassed the value of AB InBev’s cash offer after Britain’s vote to leave the European Union caused a slide in sterling. The pound’s decline also weakened the dollar value of the takeover, causing AB InBev to raise the cash portion of the offer to 45 pounds a share after pressure from activist investors.

BevCo is the holding company for Colombia’s Santo Domingo family.