Brazilian Firms Bump Up Chiquita Offer to $14.50 a Share

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (The Charlotte Observer/MCT) -

The day before Chiquita shareholders were set to vote in Charlotte, N.C., on a proposed merger with Irish produce company Fyffes, two Brazilian firms trying to break up the deal and buy Chiquita themselves increased their offer to $14.50 a share.

The unsolicited, all-cash offer had been at $14 a share. In a letter to Chiquita’s board of directors Thursday, Brazilian orange-juice maker Cutrale and banking conglomerate Safra Group said the $14.50-per-share offer should be even more attractive. The new offer would value Chiquita at about $681 million, up from $660 million at the previous price.

Chiquita’s board has twice rejected offers from Cutrale and Safra, first at $13 and then at $14 a share. The board instead wants to complete a planned all-stock merger with Dublin-based produce company Fyffes, which would create the world’s largest banana company. ChiquitaFyffes would be based in Dublin, but executives have said most of the 320 or so Charlotte workers would remain.

If Chiquita shareholders approve the company’s merger plan with Fyffes on Friday, the Brazilian firms’ offer to buy Chiquita will be withdrawn, according to Cutrale and Safra. If Chiquita shareholders vote down the Fyffes plan, then the offer from Cutrale and Safra will remain on the table at least through Monday.

Chiquita’s board has said that the offer from Cutrale and Safra undervalues the company, and that ChiquitaFyffes stock would be worth more than the Brazilian companies have offered to pay.

Major shareholder-advisory firms have been divided, with Institutional Shareholder Services telling its clients they should vote for the Fyffes deal, and Glass Lewis telling clients they should vote the deal down. Institutional investors typically turn to such advisory firms for help in deciding how to vote on mergers and major corporate actions.

Friday’s shareholder meeting is set for 9 a.m. at Chiquita’s headquarters.

In trading Thursday, Chiquita’s stock jumped 8 percent to $13.76.