Anheuser-Busch Plans Rallying Cry of "For Bud and Country"

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August Busch IV, the 43-year-old CEO of Anheuser-Busch, announced his counterattack against InBev's now-hostile offer during a Friday conference call with investors and analysts. Kaiser August pitched an expansion of Anheuser's cost-cutting program, Blue Ocean, to make $1 billion in cuts by 2010, twice its original target and including job buyouts or layoffs for up to 1300 employees, or 15% of Anheuser's workforce. "We need to break from a conservative culture," the young Kaiser reported, but gave no word on whether shareholders also needed to break from conservative management.
Busch argued that Anheuser's current management "can achieve independently" the value of InBev's bid and has planned the cuts for some time. Setting aside skepticism about the timing and originality of the plan, he has his work cut out for him in convincing shareholders that Anheuser can trim its fat more efficiently than InBev. Busch contends that an already-entrenched management team can deliver better results because of their familiarity with the terrain; previous attempts by conservative, family-controlled enterprises in similar situations have had mixed results at best. Carlos Brito, by contrast, speaks of "unleashing that to the world" when he refers to Budweiser, capturing the hyper-aggressive national spirit of the Belgians.
August IV initially said that InBev could remove all the directors at will, but asked at the end of the call, "Can we correct my statement" before announcing that Anheuser would challenge this point in Delaware's Chancery Court. Chances for peace look slim; one beverage consultant remarked "InBev is a very aggressive company. They don't take no for an answer."
-senior Anheuser-Habsburg-Busch correspondent Andrew

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