Chiquita Gets EU Clearance for Merger With Fyffes

(The Charlotte Observer/MCT) -

Chiquita Brands International said Friday that it has received clearance from the European Union for its planned merger with Irish produce company Fyffes with only a minimal divestiture.

The companies are trying to complete their deal by the end of the year, even as two Brazilian companies are trying to break up the merger and buy Charlotte, N.C.-based Chiquita themselves. American regulators have already approved the deal.

“This regulatory clearance represents a significant milestone for our proposed transaction to create the No. 1 banana company globally,” said Chiquita CEO Ed Lonergan and Fyffes CEO David McCann in a joint statement.

In order to get clearance from the EU, the companies agreed not to have any exclusive shipping arrangements with third-party shippers to Northern Europe. The agreement isn’t expected to have any material impact on the merged company, to be called ChiquitaFyffes, executives said. The companies have told investors they will save $60 million a year by combining operations.

Chiquita shareholders are set to vote on the Fyffes deal on Oct. 24 in Charlotte.

Cutrale, an orange-juice maker, and Safra Group, a banking conglomerate, launched an unsolicited bid to try to acquire Chiquita for $13 a share. The Brazilian companies forced Chiquita to delay its shareholder vote and launch negotiations, but Chiquita’s board still supports the Fyffes deal. Cutrale and Safra are conducting due diligence and have said they expect to make another offer for Chiquita soon, but it’s not clear when that would occur.