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JBS plans sale of Moy Park, amid $2bn asset sell-off

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JBS is proposing to put Moy Park, one of Europe's top poultry producers, up for sale as the meatpacker, rocked by the fallout of corruption scandals, lifted above $2bn the sum it expects from asset sales.

The Brazil-based group said that senior managers had unveiled a "divestment programme of non-core and less strategic assets" aimed at raising R$6bn ($1.8bn), on top of the R$1bn already raised through the sale to rival Minerva of beef assets in Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay.

Assets put up for sale in the new disposal programme - which requires approval from the JBS board and state development bank BNDES - include Moy Park, the UK-based poultry group bought from Marfrig Global Foods, another Brazil-based rival, for $1.5bn, comprising $1.21bn in equity and £193m in debt.

The announcement comes less than two years after the deal completed, and in essence signals the withdrawal of JBS from being a force in Europe although it does retain some smaller operations in the continent, for example a German-based leather operation.

'Very, very innovative'

JBS said on acquiring Moy Park that the deal represented an "important step" in a strategy of expansion in prepared and convenience foods, besides boosting the group's "geographic diversification".

In March, as JBS unveiled 13.5% growth to £131.9m in Moy Park's earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation (ebitda) for calendar 2016, group chief executive Wesley Batista praised the business for "very, very innovative products.

"We definitely are going to leverage to use the Moy Park knowledge in terms of innovation to launch some products in the US market and as well is in the Brazilian market," he told investors.

Last month, Mr Batista said that Moy Park was "performing as expected, in line with our plans, we are making improvements and we see opportunity to keep improving" the business.

'Stronger structure'

However, JBS has been forced into asset sales in the wake of scandals which have seen J&F Investimentos, the Batista family holding company that controls JBS and other assets, agree a record R$10.3bn fine as part of a plea bargain agreement with Brazilian authorities.

J&F Investimentos also needs to pay down a reported R$14bn in loans over the next 12 months.

JBS said that its divestment programme would "reduce the company's net debt and, consequently, its financial leverage, strengthening JBS's financial structure".

Vigor disposal?

Also up for sale in the disposal programme are the group's Five Rivers Cattle Feeding assets and farms, and its 19.2% stake in Vigor, the Brazilian dairy group, for which US drinks giant PepsiCo was said in March to have bid for.

Last week, Vigor was reported to have been offered for sale to peers Including France's Groupe Lactalis and Danone, besides Mexico's Grupo Lala and Switzerland's Emmi.

By Mike Verdin

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