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Fears Buffett is backing Inbev bid for Budweiser has St Louis up in arms

Stephen Foley
Wednesday 18 June 2008 00:00 BST

People in St Louis, Missouri, the historic home of Budweiser beer and its maker, Anheuser-Busch, reacted angrily to reports that Warren Buffett, the billionaire investor, is preparing to endorse the sale of the company to Belgian brewer InBev.

Mr Buffett was damned as "a traitor" and "un-American" as tempers in the city remained high, following the unsolicited $46bn (£23bn) offer which would pitch the iconic American beer into foreign ownership.

Carlos Brito, chief executive of InBev, yesterday stepped up a charm offensive aimed at heading off opposition to the deal, flying to Washington for talks with Missouri senator Claire McCaskill, who has spoken out against the takeover. And he promised in a piece in the St Louis newspaper that InBev would not cut jobs in the city and would in fact turn St Louis into InBev's US headquarters. InBev will also protect Budweiser's heritage.

"We would maintain a St Louis civic presence and support of certain institutions, as... this is a key part of what Anheuser-Busch, as a corporate citizen, and Budweiser, as a brand, are about," he wrote."

Protesters had taken to the streets of St Louis over the weekend, chanting "Hell, no, Bud won't go", to protest the sale, and petitions have sprung up on the internet.

Meanwhile, Mr Brito's charm offensive on Capitol Hill appeared to have failed yesterday. Speaking after their meeting, Senator McCaskill said she would do "everything possible" to stop the sale.

Politicians may have less influence, however, than Mr Buffett, whose Berkshire Hathaway investment company holds 5 per cent of Anheuser-Busch shares, more than the family of August Busch, the chief executive and great-grandson of the company's founder.

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