UPDATE 2-UK court says SABMiller shareholders can be split into two classes
* UK court ruling effectively raises investor approval hurdle
* Altria, Bevco to give support separately
* More details to be published on Aug. 26 (Adds SAB, AB InBev statements, updates shares)
By Martinne Geller
LONDON, Aug 23 (Reuters) - SABMiller shareholders can be treated as two separate groups when they vote on the brewer's 79 billion pound ($103 billion) takeover by Anheuser Busch InBev, a court in London ruled on Tuesday, granting a request from SAB aimed at making the vote as fair as possible.
The marriage of the world's largest beer makers was agreed last year with an offer of 44 pounds per share in cash for general shareholders and a discounted cash-and-stock offer aimed at the largest two - Altria Group and Bevco - to help them avoid large tax bills.
The agreement grew contentious this summer after a fall in the British currency increased the value of the cash-and-stock offer above that of the cash offer. AB InBev sweetened its offer in July after several shareholders, including activist hedge funds, pressured SABMiller to seek a new deal.
Both brewers' boards have recommended AB InBev's "final" offer, and SAB requested that Altria and Bevco -- which have already signalled their support -- be treated as a separate class.
Justice Richard Snowden said on Tuesday it was an understandable request since it lowered the risk of delays or challenges from dissenting shareholders who might have challenged the vote as unfair given that Altria and Bevco has agreed to a different offer arrangement. Continuación...