SMITHFIELD, Va./PRNewswire/ -- Smithfield Foods, Inc. (NYSE: SFD - news) announced today that it has entered into an agreement with Artal Holland B.V. for a joint venture in AFG Company Limited, located in the Guangdong Province of the Peoples Republic of China. The company produces, sells and distributes processed meats products to retail and food service customers in China under the Maverick and Haslett brands. Established in 1998, the company has processed meats revenues of approximately $8.5 million.

"The opportunity to combine our processed meats expertise with Artal's knowledge and experience in the marketing and distribution of branded food products in China was irresistible," said Joseph W. Luter, III, chairman and chief executive officer of Smithfield Foods. "These combined strengths, along with the recent admittance of China into the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the continued development of its market economy, makes China an exciting growth opportunity for Smithfield Foods," he added.

"Our strategies for growing the business will be similar to those that drove Artal's Mankattan and Country Road brands to the number one market position in branded bread products from a 1995 startup. Artal currently has direct distribution of bread products to about 6,000 retail, food service and school locations," commented Robert A. Sharpe II, president, international operations of Smithfield Foods, Inc. "This assures our ability to grow processed meats distribution from the current level of about 300 locations," he said.

Smithfield Foods has delivered a 28 percent average annual compounded rate of return to investors since 1975. In the last 15 years, the company's share price has outperformed the S&P 500 Index by more than 350 percent. With annual sales of $8 billion, Smithfield Foods is the leading processor and marketer of fresh pork and processed meats in the United States, as well as the largest producer of hogs. For more information, please visit .

Artal Holland B.V. is part of the group of Artal, a private European-based company with over $1 billion in capital, which invests private equity globally in growth and change opportunities. Since 1985, Artal has funded more than 60 companies across a variety of situations including leveraged buy-outs, expansion financing, and venture capital.

SOURCE: Smithfield Foods, Inc.