Stibbe usurps Lovells on SABMiller deal

SABMiller has passed over longstanding adviser Lovells on its €816m (£583m) bid for the Dutch brewer Grolsch, turning instead to Herbert Smith alliance firm Stibbe.

It is understood that SABMiller’s financial adviser ABN Amro recommended the Dutch firm over Lovells’ Amsterdam office, which has only nine partners.

SABMiller’s general counsel and former Lovells partner John Davidson said: “I think it’s fair to say to say that [Lovells Amsterdam] is a fine practice but it doesn’t have a high profile in the Dutch M&A market.”

The company decided it needed a Dutch firm with “grey hairs”, he added.

Grolsch was advised by De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek, one of Slaughter and May’s best friends and traditional adviser to the company.

De Brauw partner Paul Cronheim said: “The management board of Grolsch did a fantastic job exercising their fiduciary duty in the interest of all stakeholders, getting a knock-out price for all shareholders with very strong non-financial elements.”

SABMiller’s offer for Grolsch was made at a 84 per cent premium and analysts do not believe a rival offer is likely.

Stibbe partner Marius Josephus Jitta, who worked alongside partner Heleen Kersten, commented: “Theoretically someone could make a counter offer, but this is not a very realistic thing. Synergies in this case might well play in favour of SAB.”

SABMiller is intending to leverage Grolsch’s European strength to market Miller Lite and others of its brands. Grolsch’s beer brands are to rolled out to the South African, Latin American and other emerging markets.

There has been speculation that SABMiller would pile into the fight for Scottish & Newcastle, which has been staving off bids from a Heineken and Carlsberg consortium. The three brewers in that bid are represented by Linklaters, Allen & Overy and Norton Rose respectively.