Constellation Brands buying remaining stake in Crown Imports for $1.85 billion

VICTOR, N.Y. – Constellation Brands is buying the remaining 50 per cent stake of Crown Imports LLC that it doesn’t already own from Anheuser-Busch for $1.85 billion, giving it more U.S. control over Corona beers and other breweries.

Shares of Constellation added $1.74, or 8 per cent, to $23.50 in premarket trading on Friday.

The acquisition will make Constellation the third-biggest total beverage alcohol company in the U.S., the company said Friday. Constellation has imported, marketed and sold Modelo brands in the U.S. for nearly 20 years.

Constellation is buying the stake from Anheuser-Busch InBev SA/NV, which on Friday announced that it was buying Constellation’s joint venture partner on Crown, Grupo Modelo, for $20.1 billion.

Other beers owned by Crown Imports LLC include Corona Extra, Corona Light, Modelo Especial, Pacifico, Victoria and Negra Modelo. Constellation’s brands include Simi, Svedka vodka and Robert Mondavi.

Constellation Brands Inc. will suspend a $1 billion share buyback program which is about $700 million shy of topping out.

The transaction gives Constellation and Crown complete, independent control of distribution, marketing and pricing for all Modelo brands in the U.S. InBev will handle supply continuity, product quality and new innovations.

Constellation, based in Victor, N.Y., says it has fully committed bridge financing in place for the deal. Permanent financing is expected to include a combination of revolver borrowings, a new term loan under the company’s current senior credit facility and the issuance of senior notes.

The deal, which still needs regulatory approval, is expected to close during the first quarter of 2013. Constellation anticipates that the transaction will significantly add to its future earnings per share and free cash flow.