Not our Banks
BHL shareholders dismiss Ambev’s promises
A group of “concerned shareholders” of BHL has refused to drink from the same bottle as the Brazilian company Ambev which has moved to take control of the local brewery. The displeased shareholders have said that recent statements by representatives of the Latin American company regarding its plan for the local drinks manufacturer have raised a number of concerns.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY this week, Ambev’s vice president for Central America and the Caribbean Edwardo Lacerda said his company intended to have BHL reach its full potential while earning Barbados more foreign exchange through increased production and exports. He also urged Barbadians to see the move as one that could only be good “for the population and for the employees.”
“The country will benefit from additional exports that we want to make. The employees will have not only possibility to grow in their careers within Barbados but also they will be part of an international company and therefore be able to grow their careers internationally. And the population will have a company investing in the local market and the local brand and try to make it as good as possible and as a possibility of bringing new brands to the market that are part of our international portfolio. So I see this as a win-win opportunity for everyone,” Lacerda said.
He explained that Ambev’s intention was to “grow and develop the local market” as much as possible and to use Barbados as a hub for exports to the Caribbean region.
However, in a published statement today the
“concerned shareholders” said their research on the world’s fifth largest brewery had raised a number of concerns including possible drastic job cuts, losses to minority shareholders, closure of the brewery post-acquisition and damage to the local brand.
The statement urged remaining shareholders to consider all the facts and options before making a decision on the sale of their shares, pointing out that there had been “much discussion” among the shareholders, especially since “there are others in the fray ready to counter” the Latin American company’s offer.
“We also urge other interested parties to put competitive offers on the table as soon as possible,” the statement said.
In the statement, the shareholders said the proposed plan to grow the company announced by Lacerda was “of particular interest” to them because reports in “prestigious international publications”, suggested if the proposed acquisition were successful it would “destroy the Banks brand, cost severe job losses and hurt our already ailing economy.”
“Industry analysts are of the view that the acquisition of BHL by Ambev will be mainly to use Banks as a springboard to further its own Presidente brand in the Caribbean,” said the concerned shareholders in their statement.
In the interview earlier this week Lacerda told Barbados TODAY the company had a 40.7 per cent stake in BHL and had launched a tender offer to buy the remaining shares from other shareholders by the end of this month. Ambev has offered a share price of $4 to the existing shareholders.
The objections of these shareholders have come on the heels of a notice from BHL advising shareholders not to make any decision on the sale of their shares until they receive a “BHL Director Circular”.
BHL officials indicated that the board of directors of the BHL Group had engaged the services of an independent professional advisor to undertake a valuation of the company’s shares and to issue a “fairness opinion”.
Ambev, which employs over 37,000 people in Brazil alone, currently boasts some of the best-known brands of beers in Latin America including Skol, Brahma and Quilmes, as well as Labatt and Budweiser in Canada. Besides Peru, Ecuador, Paraguay, Cuba, Bolivia, El Salvador, Chile and the Dominican Republic, the company also has operations in Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica and St Vincent and the Grenadines.
This week director of the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies (SALISES) Dr Don Marshall told Barbados TODAY a successful takeover bid would result in the “fall of a local titan” and would be another sign that the economy was becoming “increasingly denationalized”.
Dr Marshall, who specializes in international political economics said while the move would be hailed by some as a victory for shareholders, it was alarming to those who understood that the Barbadian economy and society were stitched together for the effective growth and development of the country.
“You have to be concerned when greater and greater companies, small businesses and so on are being overtaken by other interests outside your domestic interests.
“We must see it as part of our enterprise legacy that Banks Beer, Plus, Coconut Cooler these have been important artifacts, products of Barbadian vintage. We do know there is nothing quite like a Banks Beer and we do know there is nothing like a Plus. Indeed we can say you’re as Bajan as Banks Beer or as Bajan as a Banks Plus.”
Dr Marshall lay the blame squarely at the foot of BHL, which he said had made itself vulnerable to capture by failing to pay attention to its brand, product improvement, efficiency and expansion.
Ambev requires at least an additional 10.3 per cent of the shares in BHL to gain control of the island’s largest beverage producer.