Anheuser-Busch files lawsuit to hit back at suitor InBev

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The Independent Online

The American brewer Anheuser-Busch came out fighting yesterday in response to InBev's hostile move to oust the group's entire board.

Anheuser, which makes Budweiser, is trying to derail the $46bn (£23bn) takeover approach from the European brewer InBev by filing a lawsuit preventing it from calling on shareholders to sack the board. It also called the Belgian group's plans "illegal" and accused it of using "deceptive conduct" to buy Anheuser at a bargain price.

The US group filed the 21-page document on Tuesday in the Eastern District Court of Missouri – rather than the more traditional jurisdiction of Delaware for company lawsuits – the court that covers St Louis, its headquarters. The suit said: "To redress harm to Anheuser-Busch and its shareholders, Anheuser-Busch requests that this Court issue an injunction prohibiting InBev from taking any steps in furtherance of its consent solicitation until such time as it has cured each and all of its false and misleading statements."

InBev declined to comment but a source close to the group said: "This move was expected – Anheuser is just using delaying tactics. InBev remains confident."

Anheuser, whose website reads "Making friends is our business", raised a series of questions relating to InBev's proposals in the suit and accused it of leaking the $65-a-share merger to investors and the financial press in May.

The group said InBev had also misled shareholders about the strength of the financing in place to secure the deal. "Given the current state of the credit markets, no group of lenders would unconditionally agree to loan InBev the $40bn it will need." InBev has said it paid the eight banks providing debt, including JP Morgan and Deutsche Bank, $50m to secure their commitment.

Anheuser lists other "misleading statements" over its plans should InBev secure a deal. It cast doubt that the merged company's North American headquarters would be based in St Louis, because of the Belgian group's operations in Cuba.

The suit said that under laws including the Trading with the Enemy Act, its Cuban business would prevent the North American operations from being managed in the US. InBev has said its activities in Cuba comply with all international laws, and it makes up 0.0035 per cent of its global beer operations.