"Stars aligned" for AB InBev's megabrew merger plan
* CEO says Africa study, shareholder talks behind timing
* SABMiller says approach is opportunistic, based on share decline
* AB InBev's U.S., Brazil problems make it look elsewhere
By Philip Blenkinsop
BRUSSELS, Oct 12 (Reuters) - Anheuser-Busch InBev's CEO says a study of SABMiller's African beer markets and talks with top shareholders led to an "alignment of stars" that drew it to its nearest rival.
But observers say the real catalysts for the $100 billion takeover proposal made public on Oct. 7 are a steep fall in SABMiller's share price, search for growth beyond AB InBev's declining core Americas markets and a desire not to give SABMiller's new management enough time to execute a workable defence.
Analysts have speculated on the tie-up of the world's top two brewers for years. Chief Executive Carlos Brito told a conference call last week that his company has been eyeing its rival for "quite a while".
In the last few months though AB InBev has done "deep dive" studies of the top nine African markets, which would include SABMiller markets such as South Africa and Nigeria.
AB InBev's larger shareholders, principally Belgian and Brazilian families, have also approached SABMiller's two main investors, cigarette-maker Altria and the BevCo company of Colombia's Santo Domingo family, which together own 40.5 percent of the UK-based brewer. Continuación...