With 95 percent of all the shares of Banks Holdings Ltd. in the hands of Ambev’s subsidiary SLU Beverages by Friday morning, a new chairman of the board was installed and he immediately held a press conference.
The goal appeared to be to calm things down after a vigorous, if one-sided, takeover battle with ANSA McAl.
Ambev, which passed the 50% mark for control of the company on Friday, Dec. 4, and then acquired another 4% or about 2.5 million shares the following week on the floor of the Barbados Stock Exchange, has since received tenders for approximately 40% more up to Friday.
The tenderers included ANSA McAl, which had acquired around 18% of BHL since mid-October in its bid for control of Banks Holdings Ltd.
The company now has 30 days to pay for the shares, which it will do at $7.10 per share.
Making the disclosures was the incoming chairman of Ambev, Marcio Juliano, who, perhaps in a sign of things to come, had to leave for Brazil immediately afterwards.
However, Mr. Juliano said he wanted to make it clear that Ambev’s overall goal was to grow the business, including the dairy and juice operations at the Pine Hill Dairy.
Mr. Juliano said he had only been appointed chairman a hour or two earlier and that the rest of the new board of directors had been nominated. They included a few non-shareholding directors from Barbados, he said, but no names were divulged.
Mr. Juliano said no major changes were planned in terms of the workforce at BHL’s various plants, which besides the Pine Hill Dairy include the Banks brewery and the soft drinks bottling company at Newton.
He said the local teams at each operation were crucial to helping Ambev to grow the company to its fullest potential. At present, he said, the brewery is only operating at around two-thirds of capacity, producing just over 100,000 hectoliters per year when it could produce around 155,000 without scaling up. (One hectoliter equals 100 liters.)
Mr. Juliano said Ambev wanted BHL to continue its highly successful relationship with Coca-Cola in Barbados although Ambev is the largest bottler of Pepsi Cola in Latin America, and he hoped the BHL subsidiary Barbados Bottling Co. would be successful in retaining its present contract with Coke. Negotiations start early in the new year.
Apart from the growth potential within Barbados itself, Mr. Juliano said Ambev saw Barbados and BHL as key to its strategy for growing its presence in CARICOM, with Banks and other products. As for the famous Barbados brew, Mr. Juliano said Banks was an iconic Bajan beer and would remain the flagship brand for BHL.