Warren Buffett may be playing a role in turning what had been a bitter and nasty takeover battle for control of St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch into a friendly deal, according to this morning's New York Times. Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway is Anheuser's second-largest shareholder.
The newspaper reports that Anheuser had reversed its opposition to a merger and is in "active talks to sell itself to the Belgian brewer InBev in a friendly deal" that could be worth more than InBev's current $46 billion bid.
According to the Times:
"Helping to drive the talks was the indication that some of Anheuser's largest shareholders, including Warren E. Buffett, were leaning toward backing a deal with InBev."
The Times article, which is available at CNBC.com, does not offer any specifics on the extent or nature of Buffett's support for a friendly deal.
Just after the InBev offer was first made public last month, a Belgian newspaper reported that Buffett supported the Belgian brewer's bid.
Then, when Becky Quick spoke with Buffett just over a week later, Buffett appeared to squelch that report by pointedly saying he had not talked to "anybody" about the deal and thought the growing fight was "an interesting spectator sport at the moment."
But earlier this week, when CNBC's Julia Boorstin spoke with Buffett at Herb Allen's Sun Valley summer gathering, she asked him he was still "not involved" in the InBev/Bud situation. His reply was only, "I'm making no news on that subject."
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