Ottawa Citizen

InBev may sell Busch parks

- BY LOVEDAY MORRIS

InBev NV may gain LONDON • as much as $4.4 billion from selling rival brewer Anheuser-Busch Cos.’s theme parks and a packaging business to help fund its proposed takeover, Petercam SA analyst Kris Kippers estimates.

InBev has said it plans to raise $8.3 billion by issuing new equity and selling “noncore” assets at both companies to finance the $46.3-billion bid.

Selling Busch Entertainm­ent Corp. could fetch about $2.9 billion, Mr. Kippers estimates. Anheuser-Busch, which owns Busch Gardens and Seaworld, opened its first theme park in Tampa, Florida, in 1959. The Budweiser brewer now runs 10 sites across the U.S. and is expanding overseas, with four parks planned in Dubai. Busch Entertainm­ent generated $1.3 billion of Anheuser’s revenue last year, or seven per cent of the total.

“The entertainm­ent business will go very rapidly after a transactio­n,” Wim Hoste, an analyst at KBC in Brussels said by phone yesterday. “They are a clear candidate for disposal.”

Busch Entertainm­ent accounted for $162.9 million in profit, or 7.7 percent of the total last year. The unit had a $4.7 million net loss in the fourth quarter.

“It’s a challengin­g business,” said Erin Ashley Smith, an analyst at Argus Research in New York.

“It’s very seasonal and a drag on earnings.” Still, the disposal of the theme parks may be a sticking point, she said. “Management might be opposed” as they may have “ties” to the unit, Ms. Smith said.

Other divestment­s may include Anheuser’s packaging unit, which could be sold for $1.5 billion, analysts estimate.

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