Union and brewers locked in BEE row
Business Day Live - Jun 8th 2016, 11:41
A dispute is still raging between the Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu) and the merging parties in the process of creating the world’s largest brewer in a $108bn deal.
Katishi Masemola, general secretary of Fawu repeated on Tuesday his determination to fight for a better deal for SAB workers when the Competition Tribunal hears the merger between SABMiller and Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev) later this month.
Masemola is looking for the early payout of the Zenzele employee share ownership programme, or a once-off payment of R165 000 for each of the about 9 000 employees who are Fawu members.
The once-off payment would cost AB-InBev R1.5bn and, said Masemola, should be seen against the $2.1bn that 1 700 senior managers and executives stand to make from the early exercise of their share options and bonuses.
Masemola said if necessary, he would take his fight to the Constitutional Court. To date, however, he has not managed to persuade the competition authorities that the treatment of the Zenzele scheme members is a public interest matter.
The Competition Commission treated it as a dispute between shareholders that should be attended to by the JSE. Indications are that the tribunal will also regard it as a shareholder dispute and not allow it to derail or delay proceedings.
Masemola’s pledge to fight on came after an announcement on Tuesday by AB InBev clarifying an offer made to members of the Zenzele scheme.
The offer, which is unchanged from one made to Fawu several weeks ago, guarantees a minimum value for Zenzele shares based on the £44 a share offer being made to SABMiller shareholders when the scheme matures in 2020. In addition, AB InBev is offering an advance payment of dividends.
Masemola has dismissed this offer, saying the advance payment was nothing more than an "unsolicited loan" that will use the Zenzele shares as collateral.
He referred to an acceleration clause in the trust deed that allows for early closure of the scheme in the event of a change of control.
AB InBev’s clarification followed the posting of an "information note" on the website of the Department of Economic Development.
The note provides a synopsis of the agreement reached between the merging parties and the government, and refers to a "special dividend payment" to Zenzele participants as one of the "enhancements" AB InBev had committed to making.
The information note gives the impression it is a bonus dividend payment, and does not refer to it being an advance that has to be repaid.
Emma Reynolds, a spokeswoman for AB InBev, said the department’s description of the dividend payment was nothing more than "a drafting issue".
The department did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.
Several parties attended Tuesday’s pre-hearing at the tribunal and have been given the right to make submissions.
They include Heineken, Distell, the taverners’ association, and a representative of small business and will not be able to call witnesses.From Business Day Live
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