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Bud brewer offered $46.3B

Top beer seller InBev wants to buy Anheuser-Busch, which is deciding.

InBev NV made an unsolicited offer yesterday to buy Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc. for $46.3 billion to gain half of the U.S. beer market.

Shares of Anheuser-Busch climbed as much as 9.7 percent in late New York trading after the company said in a statement yesterday that its board would evaluate the $65-a-share proposal "in due course." InBev said in a separate statement on its Web site that it intended to pay for the purchase with cash.

The industry's largest takeover would put InBev's Stella Artois and Leffe brands together with Budweiser, the iconic lager first brewed 132 years ago in St. Louis. In a 20-year acquisition spree, InBev has grown from a collection of family-owned Flemish beers to become the top beer-maker by sales, dominating the Latin American market.

"The U.S. accounts for almost a third of world beer profit, and there is hardly any overlap" between the companies, said Marcel Hooijmaijers, an analyst at Landsbanki Kepler in Amsterdam, before the bid was announced.

The offer by InBev is 24 percent more than Anheuser- Busch's share price May 22, the day before reports said InBev, of Leuven, Belgium, was preparing a takeover bid.

Anheuser-Busch rose $4.15, or 7.1 percent, to $62.50 at 6:18 p.m. in trading after the close of the New York Stock Exchange.

Anheuser-Busch chief executive officer August Busch 4th sent an e-mail to the company's beer distributors acknowledging the bid and saying a decision may take months or longer, according to the e-mail newsletter Beer Business Daily.

"As soon as we are able to relay the board's decision to you, we will do so," the newsletter quoted Busch as saying. "There is nothing you should be doing, other than continuing to focus on business as usual."

InBev's bid follows SABMiller P.L.C.'s agreement to combine its U.S. division with that of Molson Coors Brewing Co. Anheuser-Busch, the world's biggest brewer for five decades before InBev took over the top spot, has been selling the Belgian company's Beck's and other brews in the United States for the last year.

While InBev has operations in at least 30 countries and sells in more than 130, it generates less than 1 percent of its beer volume in the United States. Industrywide sales in the country are almost $100 billion a year, according to Euromonitor P.L.C.

InBev's interest in Anheuser-Busch was reported last month in the Financial Times' Alphaville blog. The acquisition would not increase earnings for at least three years, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. analysts wrote in a note May 30. A purchase may also harm Anheuser brands should InBev try to lower costs, Deutsche Bank AG analysts wrote May 26.

A combination would save about $450 million a year in marketing, distribution and administrative costs, Credit Suisse Group AG estimated.