‘Compelling’ €751m offer for Fyffes marks end of era in Irish stock market history

A €751.3m proposed “compelling” acquisition of Irish-based international fresh produce distributor Fyffes marks something of an end of era in Irish stock market history, as the famous brand comes under Japanese control.

The good news for shareholders is the €2.23 a share cash offer by Asian giant Sumitomo Corporation — which although not a household name here is a dominant banana supplier in Japan — represents a hefty premium of almost 50% on the recent trading levels. 

Fyffes’ shares had risen in recent weeks, despite the potential for disruption to the business from the Brexit fallout.

However, the acquisition of Fyffes was probably inevitable after a complex billion-dollar deal involving another banana giant, Chiquita of the US finally unpeeled in late 2014.

Fyffes shares at the time were trading at 80 cent.

The acquisition will likely pass regulatory hurdles because Fyffes is a leading distributor in Europe and, more recently through acquisitions of mushroom operations in North America, while Sumitomo’s operations do not overlap much.

The small staff at its Dublin offices will stay on. Fyffes — then a British-owned company — first unveiled its Blue Label sticker in 1929. 

Around 20 years ago, it was also a pioneer in distributing pineapples into Ireland and the rest of Europe.

One of the largest beneficiaries will be the McCann family members which through a trust own almost 11.8% of the company, which is valued at around €88m under the buyout.

Separately, chief executive David McCann owns over 2.26 million shares in the company, valuing that shareholding at over €5m. 

A family trust of the late US businessman Jerry Zucker has also backed the deal, meaning Sumitomo has the backing of over 27.2% of Fyffes’ shareholders. 

The acquisition includes a 40% stake held by Fyffes in Balmoral International, a property company.

Mr McCann said the board had unanimously agreed to accept the “compelling” offer. 

“Our employees, customers, suppliers and joint venture partners will benefit from Fyffes being part of an enlarged group with greater scale, reach and resources to broaden and accelerate delivery of Fyffes’ strategic objectives,” he said.

Sumitomo said its offer “represents a great reward for Fyffes’ shareholders”. Shareholders will, in addition, receive the 2016 final dividend of 2 cent a share.

Sumitomo describes itself as a €14bn giant, and holds €7.45bn in cash.

It owns plantations in the Philippines and is the No 1 banana firm in Asian countries, importing 30% of the bananas into Japan.


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