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Will St. Katelijne Waver house the world's largest fruit and vegetable company?

Are Deprez and Murdock about to close a deal?

Belgian company Greenyard NV is exploring an acquisition of Dole Food Co, a U.S. fruit and vegetable producer that could be valued at more than $2.5 billion, including debt. Since the merger in 2015 which gave rise to Greenyard, the company has been involved in frequent acquisitions. Mushroom processor Lutèce and mushroom substrate producer Mykogen have been added to the portfolio. Last night, the Belgian fruit giant confirmed its interest in the American giant Dole Foods.

Earlier this year, it emerged that David H. Murdock, the 94-year-old owner of Dole Foods, had prepared a new IPO for the company. In 2013, the billionaire took the fruit business out of the stock exchange. In response to this announcement, Dole received several bids, as reported by news agency Reuters citing its own sources. One of the bids came from the Belgian Sint Katelijne Waver. The bid from Greenyard on Dole would be the one preferred by Murdock, according to Reuters' sources.

Greenyard confirmed its interest in Dole Foods and has reported in a press release that negotiations are "at an advanced stage." There is no guarantee, however, that a deal will be settled. Should major shareholder Hein Depres (Greenyard) and David H. Murdock (Dole Foods) reach an agreement on the acquisition, a global fruit and vegetable giant would be born with it. Greenyard is firmly based in Europe and is, among other things, a regular supplier of supermarkets like Albert Heijn and Delhaize. Dole Foods, although mostly known in Europe for its bananas and pineapples, has a strong position on the other side of the ocean. According to estimations by various newspapers, this acquisition would create the largest fruit and vegetable company in the world.

Last year, the private company Dole had a turnover of 4.51 billion dollars, but still recorded a loss of 23.7 million dollars. In 2012, the year before Dole was taken off the stock exchange following Murdock's acquisition, the company recorded a loss of $ 144.5 million against a turnover of $ 4.25 billion. The value of Dole Foods is estimated at 2.5 billion dollars, while the market value of Greenyard amounts to around 900 million Euro (1.06 billion dollars).

According to the press release, Greenyard will resort to a "balanced financing mix" to pay for the purchase. The Belgian newspaper De Standaard explains that they are referring to debts and share capital. The newspaper writes that because of the historically low interest rate, it is a good time to make large investments with debts. Banks are said to be willing to back the purchase. In March of this year, Greenyard launched a share buy-back program with the aim of buying 1.75 million shares with a value of 28.6 million Euro within a few months. On the stock exchange in Brussels, the price jumped from 19.63 Euro to 20.25 Euro around 9 o'clock this morning.

If the negotiations fail, Murdock will take the other bids he received into account, reports Reuters. This included bids from investment companies.

Publication date: 12/19/2017



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