AB InBev seen reining in SABMiller's decentralised culture
By Martinne Geller
LONDON Oct 5 (Reuters) - If brewing giant Anheuser-Busch InBev buys SABMiller, it will likely force its centralised and standardised operating model on a business known for regional independence.
A culture clash is common in any merger. In this case, SAB's integration into AB InBev may mean an end to the partnerships and equity stakes it has around the world. The combined company may also adopt a centralised structure that better suits a focus on global brands like AB InBev's Budweiser and Corona, whereas SAB has historically nurtured local brews like Castle in South Africa and Aguila in Colombia.
Yet with AB InBev much more profitable than SAB or other brewers, investors are unlikely to mind.
"Investors recognise that two organisations have different cultures but at the end of the day, really they're concerned about sustainable earnings growth," said Bernstein Research analyst Trevor Stirling. "There's not much sentimentality when it comes to these things."
Bernstein estimates that cost savings from the deal could result in a 7.5 to 12.5 percentage point benefit to margins. AB InBev had a profit margin of 39 percent last year, versus 23 percent for SABMiller.
"The operating ethos at SAB was very decentralised," according to a former SAB executive.
Managers under former CEO Graham Mackay were encouraged to use their own initiative and judgment, he said. Mackay, who led SAB's international expansion with a string of deals over two decades, died in 2013.
Big brewers have been cutting costs recently as sales slow in many markets due to faltering economies and competition from craft beers and cocktails -- a trend which has led SAB to move toward consolidated procurement. But the company has tried to stay decentralised where possible. Continuación...