Anheuser-Busch Keeps Mum on Baltika Bid

NEW YORK -- U.S. brewer Anheuser-Busch has declined to say whether it plans to bid for a minority stake in Baltic Beverages Holdings, the brewer jointly owned by Britain's Scottish & Newcastle and Denmark's Carlsberg.

Britain's The Sunday Telegraph reported that Anheuser-Busch, with help from private equity firms Blackstone and TPG, had approached S&N with an offer to join in a ?4.6 billion ($9 billion) bid by S&N to take full control of BBH, which consists of 19 breweries in Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and the Baltic countries. It is the largest brewer on former Soviet soil.

S&N's plan would be to finance the move by offering a 25 percent stake to a minority partner, the newspaper said.

"It is our policy to not confirm, deny or speculate on rumors of potential investments, acquisitions, mergers, new business partnerships or other transactions," said Anheuser chief financial officer W. Randolph Baker in an e-mailed statement Monday.

A 25 percent stake would cost Anheuser-Busch $2.25 billion, noted Wachovia analyst Jonathan Feeney. "It would certainly be Anheuser's style to consider a 25 percent equity stake -- which would allow them to gain leverage in a key long-term growth market and bolster their EPS growth via equity accounting," he said.

Feeney said the move could be part of a move by S&N to fend off a current unsolicited bid from Carlsberg and Heineken.