Chiquita firm in face of fresh offer

Chiquita firm in face of fresh offer

The board of Chiquita Brands International has once again rejected takeover advances from Cutrale Group and Safra Group, insisting their improved offer is still not in the best interests of shareholders.

The Brazilian bidders raised the value of their takeover bid for Chiquita on Wednesday (15 October) as they work to thwart the US produce group's proposed merger with Ireland-based banana group Fyffes. The offer from Cutrale and Safra now values Chiquita at US$14 a share, or about $717m, up from the $13 a share offered in August.

However, the Chiquita board remained unswayed and again threw its weight behind the proposal that would see Fyffes and Chiquita merge to form the world's largest banana group.

"The ChiquitaFyffes transaction maintains the shareholders ability to realise significantly greater value than $14.00 per share," Chiquita insisted.

The company estimated the tie-up with Fyffes implies a future share price range of $15.46 to $20.01 based on a range of EBITDA growth during 2015 of 5% to 15% and an LTM EBITDA multiple range of 7.0x to 8.0x.

Athlos Research analyst Jonathan Feeney concurs that if the ChiquitaFyffes transaction goes ahead the combined entity would be valued above the offer from Cutrale and Safra.

"We continue to see over $20 in potential value for the combined entity," he wrote in an investor note. According to Feeney, should Cutrale and Safra not succeed in their moves to buy Chiquita, the US group's stock price would appreciate on "the anticipation of the $60m in synergies" it and Fyffes, as well as "immediately improved financial risk" with a debt to EBITDA ration of less than two times.

"Finally, tightened banana supplies throughout Q2 have firmed up global pricing, which augurs well for Q3 results - which we'd expect by the end of October. In short, we think the combined company is capable, in our view, of delivering significantly higher EBITDA in 2016, suggestive of 30% plus upside."

Shareholders will vote on the merger proposal at a meeting on 24 October. Cutrale and Safra have refused to keep their $14-a-share offer on the table beyond this date.

Click here to view the statement from Chiquita.