Chiquita Withdrawing Fyffes Offer; Expected To Go Private

Chiquita Brands International Inc (NYSE:CQB) announced on Thursday, October 22nd that its shareholders have rejected the fruit producer’s proposed acquisition of Irish rival Fyffes PLC (LON:FFY) (OTCMKTS:FYFFF). The vote ends a months-long saga that began as a tax inversion deal and looks to end up with the firm being taken private by a Brazilian group who are offering a generous $14.50 per share.

Statement from Chiquita CEO

“We appreciate the consideration and perspectives of all Chiquita shareholders who participated in this process,” Edward F. Lonergan, Chiquita’s chief executive, commented in a statement. “Given today’s results, we have determined to terminate the agreement with Fyffes and to engage with Cutrale/Safra regarding its revised offer.”

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“I want to thank David McCann and the entire Fyffes team for their efforts throughout this process,” Lonergan continued. “While we are convinced they would have been a strong merger partner, we will now go forward as competitors. We would also like to express our gratitude to Chiquita’s employees for their hard work and dedication on behalf of Chiquita and our customers.”

Moving ahead with deal to go private

The statement also noted that Chiquita Brands International Inc (NYSE:CQB) was entering into advanced talks with a group of Brazilian bidders who are offering $14.50 a share for the firm and plan to take the company private. The Cutrale Group and the Safra Group are the bidders, and their offer adds up to around $680 million for the iconic banana producer. Sources with knowledge of the matter say the deal to go private could be finalized as early as this coming Monday.

Failed tax inversion deal

The story began earlier this spring when Chiquita made a deal to buy Fyffes PLC (LON:FFY) (OTCMKTS:FYFFF) for $526 million to build the world’s largest supplier and distributor of bananas. A merger with Fyffes would have expanded Chiquita’s reach in Europe, and created a global firm with more than $4.6 billion in revenue.

The deal was designed as a tax inversion transaction, where an American company purchases a smaller foreign rivals and reincorporating abroad to lower their tax bills. These kind of deals received a great deal of negative publicity over the last few months, and the Treasury Department has recently changed some regulations to make tax inversion transactions less profitable for the companies involved.

Everything change in August, however, when the Brazilian group came on the scene with its all-cash offer. The group made an initial offer of $13 per share, which was a 29% premium to Chiquita Brands International Inc (NYSE:CQB)’s share price at the time.