Anheuser details staff benefit, pension reductions - memo
NEW YORK, June 29 |
NEW YORK, June 29 (Reuters) - Anheuser-Busch Cos Inc (BUD.N), the brewer trying to fend off a takeover by Belgian rival InBev NV INTB.BR, plans to reduce lump-sum pension payouts to staff and raise employee healthcare contributions as part of a strategic plan, according to an internal memo.
The memo, obtained by Reuters on Sunday and dated Friday morning, describes the changes as "difficult, but necessary". It cited a changing economic picture which has resulted in sharp increases in costs.
"We have considered a number of (the changes) for some time, although we have accelerated our actions to reflect what is happening in the marketplace," the memo read.
The memo was addressed to salaried workers and was from Tim Farrell, vice president of Corporate Human Resources.
Anheuser-Busch, the St Louis, Missouri-based brewer, which brews the popular Budweiser brand, on Thursday rejected a $65-a-share, or $46.3 billion offer from InBev NV, whose brands include Stella Artois and Beck's.
On Friday, Anheuser-Busch laid out a plan to cut $1 billion in costs and improve earnings as it tries to convince investors that the InBev offer is too low.
The program, which Anheuser-Busch calls "Blue Ocean", includes cutting 10 to 15 percent of its 8,600 salaried workforce through early retirement and attrition, speeding up price hikes to cope with rising commodity costs, and setting earnings forecasts that exceed Wall Street's expectations.
The memo said the changes to employee benefits was part of an "expanded Blue Ocean effort" that will enhance profitability.
It details plans to calculate lump sum pension benefits for salaried employees through a method using interest rates tied to corporate bonds as of 2009. It previously calculated the rate using the 30-year US Treasury bond rates for the months of August and September.
This is expected to reduce individual lump sum payouts by about 5 percent to 6 percent in 2009 and about 15 percent by 2012, the memo said.
The memo said that even with the cuts, its benefits were "above the 75th percentile of our corporate peers".
Employee healthcare cost sharing will increase in 2009, the memo said, with salaried employees contributing about 25 percent as opposed to the previous 21 percent, depending on the plan.
In an e-mailed statement, Anheuser-Busch's Farrell said that the continuing high costs of healthcare were impacting all companies, and added that employees at peer companies pay 30 percent to 40 percent of healthcare.
"We are committed to industry-leading benefits and, based on careful peer group analysis, we will continue to be in the upper tier of Fortune 200 peers with these modifications," he said. (Reporting by Megan Davies; Editing by Kim Coghill)
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