Brazilian meat heavyweight BRF has confirmed reports it is looking to sell its pet-food arm.

BRF said in a stock-exchange announcement today (28 February) it had hired Banco Santander as financial advisor for the sale of the business and said it is already in early-stage discussions with would-be purchasers.

Earlier, news agency Bloomberg, citing “people with direct knowledge of the matter” said BRF wanted to sell the unit to raise cash amid a business overhaul and that a figure of BRL2bn (US$384m) had been mentioned.

In 2020, BRF set a target to triple its sales revenues over the next decade by focusing on areas such as plant-based proteins, ready meals and pet food.

As part of what was then the company’s overall corporate strategy for 2030, BRF said it wanted to be “one of the largest and most relevant players in the Brazilian pet food market by 2025”.

In 2021, BRF acquired two Brazil-based pet-food makers Mogiana Alimentos and Hercosul.

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BRF did not confirm the asking price in today’s announcement, saying only that the process is “in its initial stage, with preliminary talks with potential interested parties”.

Bloomberg reported that BRF has about 10% of the fast-growing Brazilian pet-food market with brands including Balance and Gran Plus.

It said BRF, one of the world’s biggest poultry exporters, is considering plans to reduce its debt leverage and focus on its main business of chicken, pork and processed food production.

It linked the “overhaul” to Brazilian meat peer Marfrig becoming BRF’s biggest shareholder having built up a stake north of 30%.

Last March, Marfrig founder and chairman Marcos Molina became BRF’s chairman and, in August, Marfrig CEO Miguel Gularte was appointed as chief executive at BRF.

In a stock-exchange filing at the time, publicly-listed BRF said the appointment of Gularte “does not represent an intention, at this moment, of [a] merger between the company and Marfrig Global Foods”.