Chiquita Hints at Concessions Needed to Get Fyffes Deal Approved

(The Charlotte Observer/MCT) —

Chiquita Brands International said Tuesday that it’s examining limited concessions as it works to get approval from European regulators for its merger with an Irish produce company.

Chiquita, based in Charlotte, N.C., and Dublin-based Fyffes said in a statement that they’re trying to get approval from the European Commission by Oct. 3, when shareholders are set to vote on the proposed all-stock combination of the two companies. But Brazilian orange juice-maker Cutrale and banking conglomerate Safra Group are trying to break up the Chiquita-Fyffes deal and acquire Chiquita themselves for $611 million in cash.

Chiquita and Fyffes told investors Tuesday that any proposed concessions to European regulators “are not expected to have a material impact upon the commercial rationale for the transaction.”

The companies didn’t say what the concessions might entail. But Cutrale and Safra pounced on the Chiquita statement as evidence that shareholders should choose their deal instead.

“Cutrale and Safra are focused on due diligence with respect to its superior proposal and, unlike the proposed Fyffes’ transaction, do not foresee any potential regulatory stumbling blocks associated with a Cutrale-Safra acquisition of Chiquita,” the Brazilian companies said in a joint statement. A spokesman for Chiquita could not immediately be reached.

Cutrale and Safra first made an unsolicited offer to acquire Chiquita for $13 a share last month. Chiquita’s board rejected the deal, but Cutrale and Safra pressed their fight, taking the offer directly to shareholders. They won enough shareholder support to force Chiquita to postpone its shareholder vote on the Fyffes deal, which had been planned for Wednesday.

Last week, Chiquita said it had opened talks with Cutrale and Safra about an acquisition, but that its board of directors was still recommending shareholders vote for the Fyffes deal. Under that deal, ChiquitaFyffes’ headquarters would move to Dublin, though the companies have said most of the 320 jobs located in Charlotte would stay.

The Chiquita takeover fight is one of two battles raging over prominent Charlotte-area companies. Family Dollar is trying to fend off an $80-per-share, $9.1 billion hostile bid from rival Dollar General.

Family Dollar is trying to convince its shareholders that it should instead be acquired by Dollar Tree, which has offered $74.50 a share, or $8.5 billion total, to buy the discount retailer.

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