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Fyffes shares jump as it snaps up Canadian mushroom business

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Shares in Irish banana company Fyffes shot higher, after it announced it will acquire 100% of Canadian mushroom grower Highline Produce.

Fyffes, which also markets melons and pineapples, hopes the debt-funded purchase will grow its earnings per share by 13% in 2016.

The group's shares in Dublin jumped over 8% on the news, trading as high as E1.5290 in morning deals, their highest level since mid-January.

Fyffes chairman David McCann said the transaction "fits perfectly with Fyffes strategic objective of adding an additional product to its existing three".

Rising debt

Highline is the largest mushroom business in Canada, and also sells into the US market.

The E98m acquisition, which values Highline at 8.1 times its earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation (ebitda), will be funded by bank loans.

The purchase will sharply increase Fyffes indebtedness, leaving total debts at nearly 2.5 times of ebitda, compared to just 0.7 of ebitdaas of December last year.

Fyffe hopes to cut its debt back down to less than double its ebitda over the next two years.

Highline chief executive Glenn Martin will continue to run the business, Fyffes said.

Buying spree

The company signalled its acquisitive intentions in its annual report, released on Thursday.

"Fyffes is determined to continue to grow its business and is actively pursuing a number of attractive acquisition opportunities at all points in the supply chain from production to distribution," said Mr McCann.

"Fyffes has always pursued a strategy of growth by acquisition and future growth will remain dependent on the group's ability to continue to successfully complete such transactions, in addition to organic growth," the company said.

The company has already been on a bit of buying spree over the end of 2015, taking on E14.5m of melon farming assets in Guatemala, and a E13.4m banana farm in Costa Rica.

Chiquita rebuff

Back in 2014, Fyffes announced plans to take-over the US banana giant Chiquita, creating the world's largest banana company, but the deal fell through in October of that year after being turned down by shareholders.

One stumbling block for the deal was a change in US tax policy, which reduced the incentive for Chiquita to move operations to Fyffes Irish headquarters.

Fyffes shares were trading up 7.9%, at E1.500, in midday deals in Dublin.


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