NETHERLANDS – Billionaire entrepreneur and Microsoft co-founder, Bill Gates, has purchased a 3.7% stake (10.8 million shares) worth about US$939.87 million in the Dutch brewing group, Heineken, even though the investor had publicly announced he is “not a big beer drinker.”

“Of the 10.83 million shares, Bill Gates bought 6.65 million as a private individual and another 4.18 million through the non-profit Bill & Melinda Gates Investment Trust, a foundation owned by the American business magnate and his ex-wife,” Inside Beer reported.

Gates purchased the shares from the Mexican Coca-Cola bottler and convenience store operator Fomento Economico Mexicano SAB(FEMSA), which is selling out of the brewing company to focus on core business verticals that have the highest strategic relevance, growth potential, and financial and competitive strength.

In a 2018 “Ask Me Anything” chat session on Reddit, Gates said he was “not a big beer drinker.” “When I end up at something like a baseball game, I drink light beer to get with the vibe of all the other beer drinkers. Sorry to disappoint real beer drinkers,” he said at the time.

According to Bloomberg, FEMSA has indicated that it plans on selling all its shares in Heineken within two to three years.

In a separate filing, Heineken said it bought €1 billion (US$1 billion) worth of shares from the exiting shareholder, FEMSA. Breaking down, it purchased 7.8 million shares of FEMSA in HEINEKEN at EUR91 each and 3.9 million shares of Heineken Holding NV at EUR75 each. FEMSA owned 8.6% of Heineken’s issued share capital, according to FactSet data.

Heineken accused of defaulting on promise to leave Russia

Elsewhere, Dutch investigative website Follow the Money has accused the Amsterdam-based brewer of “breaking a promise” to leave Russia over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

The media report revealed that Heineken is still selling its non-Heineken International brands, such as Amstel, and launching new products.

Responding to the report, the brewer claimed it still has plans of exiting the country but that selling the Russian part of the business is taking longer than expected. The company is hopeful that a sale will be finalized in the first half of 2023.

Heineken anticipates taking a 300-million-euro loss when its Russian business is eventually transferred to a buyer.

“We’re working hard to transfer our business to a viable buyer in very challenging circumstances and at a significant financial loss to the company,” Heineken said in a statement.

“In the meantime, our local colleagues are doing what they can to keep the business going to avoid nationalization and to ensure their livelihoods are not at risk. There is no exchange of funds between Heineken and our local business in Russia, and we do not receive any dividends or royalties.”

Meanwhile, the Danish multinational brewer, Carlsberg, also postponed its departure until “mid-2023” from the initial end of 2022.

“It is a more difficult sales process than we had anticipated,” Carlsberg CEO Cees ‘t Hart has admitted.

He added that Carlsberg was not ruling out returning to Russia in the future and was keen on including a “buy-back clause” into any contract with a potential buyer, which would allow Carlsberg to repurchase the Russian assets at a later stage.

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