Wednesday 26 November 2014

First battle is won but the real war is still to be fought

Published 16/08/2014 | 02:30

Fyffes Executive Chairman David McCann
Fyffes Executive Chairman David McCann
Fyffes has scored a major victory in the battle to merge with banana giant Chiquita after shareholders rejected a rival bid for the US firm

Round one to Fyffes. The Irish banana firm's hope for a merger with Chiquita looked dead in the water when the Brazilian pair of Safra and Cutrale launched their $13 a share bid for the US company on Monday.

The conventional wisdom said there was no way Fyffes had the firepower to comeback with a better offer, and the market agreed. Chiquita shares jumped by a third.

At one stage Fyffes shares had fallen by more than a fifth and quickly dropped back below the level they had traded before the Irish firm went public with the Chiquita deal last March.

Chiquita though has backed the Fyffes offer, opting for "jam tomorrow" instead of the higher cash bid.

Chiquita merging with Fyffes will create significant tax benefits for the new company - in essence it would be an "inversion" - that Cutrale and Safra cannot replicate.

It is not surprising that Cutrale and Safra last night expressed their "dissappointment" at Chiquita for choosing Fyffes instead of them.

The Brazilans are now "considering all alternatives" as they seek a way back into the deal.

While the firms have not said if they plan to make a renewed bid for Chiquita, it is clear they won't be conceding defeat just yet.

Their bid valued Chiquita at about €465m. At $13 a share, analysts at BB&T Capital reckon they need to up their offer to $15 to overcome the tax benefits and synergies Fyffes could provide.

Traders are clearly hedging their bets.

Fyffes shares gained 1.4pc on Friday and have barely moved since coming off the cliff at the start of the week. Chiquita 
meanwhile was trading at 
around $13.60 in New York yesterday.

The market is yet to be convinced David McCann and his team at Fyffes will be able to win this one.

Round One is over but there is still a long way to go. There will be a round two, and possibly another few rounds after that as well.

Irish Independent

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