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SABMiller seeks Australian review of Foster’s accounts

SAB Miller claims takeover target made ‘misleading and deceptive’ statements in its profit announcement last month

Global brewer SABMiller has asked Australia’s takeovers panel to examine financial statements made by Foster’s Group, accusing Australia’s largest brewer of making “misleading and deceptive” statements.

SABMiller has made a bn (£6.2bn) hostile bid for Foster’s, which the Australian brewer rejected as being to low to be “worth discussing”.

Foster’s released a statement from the takeovers watchdog to the stockmarket on Friday, which said SABMiller had asked the panel to force Foster’s to clarify information released in its financial statements.

Foster’s, the maker of Victoria Bitter, Carlton Draught and Pure Blonde, reported a 9% slide in second-half profit on 23 August, a rare decline with beer margins falling for the first time in a decade and volumes declining.

In a statement, the takeovers panel said SAB Miller claimed that Foster’s had made “misleading and deceptive” statements in its profit announcement last month.

The predator also argued there was “no reasonable basis” for several forward-looking statements made in Foster’s results presentation.

George Durbridge, acting counsel on the panel, said the body would assemble a group of experts on Monday to review the application by SABMiller.

If the panel decided to conduct proceedings to review the merit of SABMiller’s claims, a final decision on the case was likely within two weeks, he told Reuters.

A spokesman for Foster’s said the brewer could make no comments on the claims by SABMiller because the matter was before the panel.

SABMiller, the world’s second-largest brewer, took its offer direct to shareholders last month after the Foster’s board rejected its initial approach as shareholders hope for an offer above A (£3.30) a share.

SABMiller, which makes Peroni, Grolsch and Miller Lite, has long been seen as the favourite to take over Foster’s given the lack of potential rivals and the London-based brewer’s desire to have a good spread of global businesses.

Shares in Foster’s ended flat at A.86 on Friday, below the A.90 offer from SABMiller, but outperforming a broader market down 1.5%.

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