In 2018, AB InBev was a widely recognized global leader of the beer industry. It had patiently built a global presence and a broad brand portfolio through carefully selected mergers and acquisitions of brewers, from small local craft breweries to large multinationals. The corporate treasury team was always the tip of the spear, securing the proper financing that enabled this aggressive growth strategy. 2016 marked the epitome of AB InBev’s success—the company had successfully completed the acquisition of SABMiller. This $104 billion merger was the largest deal in the history of beer, and was enabled by the largest corporate bond offering to date—$61.9 billion. It was a huge win for AB InBev.
But in October 2018, the financing side of the landmark deal had become the pain point for the company’s management. Unexpectedly deteriorating economic conditions in Latin America, fluctuations in commodity prices, and changing consumer tastes slowed the growth in the company’s EBITDA, undermining its ability to delever. The company’s persistently high debt levels became the talk of the town, and the corporate treasury team was certain that leverage would have to be brought down to move AB InBev’s price in a positive direction. But what sounded very simple was not an easy feat.