Business World

Friday 19 September 2014

How a chance meeting led to banana behemoth

Published 11/03/2014 | 02:30

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In New Orleans last October, Chiquita's Ed Lonergan and Fyffes' David McCann got talking. Both were at a global fresh produce convention that's held every year.

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"We found ourselves chatting and cooked up a deal that made sense to both of us," Mr McCann told the Irish Independent.

He said that it was Mr Lonergan who initially pushed the idea that the two companies could combine. Mr McCann said he's glad that he listened to the proposition and that Mr Lonergan persevered with it.

Both bosses have been at pains to point out that this deal is about more than just a geographic, logistical and financial fit.

They've insisted their cultures are similar, and Mr Lonergan said the shared heritage instilled "common foundational values in our firms".

MINDFUL

Mr McCann, who worked as a partner with a Dublin law firm before joining Fyffes in 1986, conceded that he was very mindful of the 125-year-old legacy of Fyffes, but under the deal, both companies would retain their identity.

The scale that the deal results in is significant. Mr McCann says the number of boxes of bananas the enlarged group will distribute every year is way ahead of either of its closest competitors – Del Monte and Dole. Del Monte sells about 117 million a year, and Dole about 110 million.

Mr Lonergan says the benefits that Fyffes brings are considerable, including its presence in northern Europe and its involvement in initiatives such as 'Fairtrade'.

But the Fairtrade Foundation yesterday described the banana business as "dysfunctional" and warned that the merger could result in additional economic pressure on small-scale banana producers.

JOHN MULLIGAN

Irish Independent

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