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JBS unveils $1.5bn purchase of Moy Park from rival Marfrig

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JBS is to buy chicken giant Moy Park from rival Marfrig for some $1.5bn, in a deal which will give the world's biggest meat giant a sizeable presence in Europe, besides further diversifying from its historic beef market.

Brazil-based JBS is to pay $1.19bn in cash plus take on net debt at Northern Ireland-based Moy Park of £200m ($317m).

The group said that the acquisition "represents an important step" in a move "to grow its portfolio of prepared and convenient products", a strategy being followed by some rivals too, such as US-based Tyson Foods - which last year beat JBS in the takeover battle for Hillshire Brands.

While Moy Park, one of Europe's largest poultry producers, gets most of its sales from fresh products, some 40% of sales are taken in processed meat.

Into Europe

Furthermore, the deal "increases the company's geographic diversification, with a relevant expansion of its operations in Europe", where JBS currently is represented through three plants in Italy.

JBS has already expanded outside its native Brazil into South American countries such as Argentina and Paraguay, into Australia, where it bought Primo Smallgoods for $1.25bn last year, and North America.

In the US, JBS controls chicken giant Pilgrim's Pride besides substantial beef and pork operations, while in Mexico, it purchased a poultry business from Tyson a year ago.

Appetite for deals

Indeed, the group has rediscovered a hearty appetite for acquisitions, after a period of consolidation when a string of takeovers in the run up to the world financial crisis provoked concern among investors.

Wesley Batista, the JBS chief executive, said last month that the group was "still looking where are and what is the opportunities" for acquisitions.

"There are still opportunities for sure to do M&A. And I think this will never end.

"But you never know when these things happen and can be doable."

The group has been helped with its latest takeover spree by a strengthening of its balance sheet, with JBS claiming debt equivalent to 2.3 times earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (ebitda) as of the end of March.

'Reduced leverage'

By contrast, Marfrig, once considered a close competitor to JBS, will end this year with net debt equivalent to 4.2 times ebitda, according to Shore Capital estimates, and the group, which is also based in Brazil, acknowledged the boost to its balance sheet from the Moy Park disposal.

The deal "significantly improves Marfrig's capital structure, accelerating the expected reduction in its financial leverage and the associated interest expense", Marfrig said.

This improved balance sheet strength comes at a time when Marfrig is seeking to exploit the reopening of markets including the US to Brazilian beef, some three years after a finding of mad cow disease prompted import bans, and is attempting to expand its Keystone foodservice business too.

IPO plans

Indeed, Marfrig had been preparing Moy Park for a stockmarket flotation.

Martin Secco, the Marfrig chief executive, told investors last month that "we continue to work to strength our capital structure and subject to the market condition we will carry out the Moy Park IPO in the latter half of 2015".

Marfrig bought Moy Park from US-based multinational OSI Group in 2008.

Moy Park now has more than 12,000 staff in the UK, France and the Netherlands.

By Agrimoney.com

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