It was AB InBev’s skills as a banker rather than as a brewer that ensured what was a comparatively small Brazilian beer company in the early 1990s would win the global beer industry’s 25-year consolidation battle. It became the undisputed winner of that tussle in 2016 when it acquired SABMiller in an unprecedented $107bn transaction, effortlessly funded by investors who’d been charmed by the Brazilians’ proven talent — not in brewing beer but in the much more important area of capital allocation. No doubt it helped that AB InBev’s debt-fuelled acquisition trail generated huge fees for many of the same investors. For years the prospect of yet another mega-deal kept the share price high and secured the support of funders. But after swallowing SABMiller, the group’s debt profile, which extends out to 2046, was evidence that AB InBev executives had little intention of doing another major deal. This may have clashed with the wishful thinking that drives a market addicted to doing deals, ...

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