UPDATE 4-Brazil's Cutrale, Safra bid for Chiquita in bold expansion push
(Recasts to add details on Safra, Cutrale operations, deal rationale throughout)
By Olivia Oran and Greg Roumeliotis
Aug 11 (Reuters) - Juice maker Cutrale and investment firm Safra Group said on Monday they had offered to acquire U.S.-based Chiquita Brands International Inc in a $610.5 million cash deal that rivaled an all-stock agreement with Irish tropical fruit company Fyffes Plc.
Cutrale, based in Brazil, and Safra, a global banking and real estate group with strong roots in Brazil, said they were offering $13 per share in cash to Chiquita shareholders, a 29 percent premium to Chiquita's closing price on Friday.
Chiquita is attempting to close a merger with Fyffes, which the two companies announced in March. The combined market value of Chiquita and Fyffes is currently close to $1 billion.
Shares of Chiquita rose more than 30 percent in response to the competing offer. They ended the day at $13.30 on the New York Stock Exchange, above the offer price of $13, indicating that investors may expect a bidding war for the company. Shares of Fyffes fell more than 13 percent on Monday.
Faced with years of declining orange juice consumption globally, Cutrale is expanding into other geographies and products after venturing into grain trading in recent years. The presence of the conglomerate controlled by Brazilian-Lebanese financier Joseph Safra could give Cutrale the financial muscle it needs to outbid Fyffes, analysts said.
The Cutrales are extremely media-shy given the vast wealth they have acquired. They rose to prominence in the 1960s when they began to export orange juice concentrate to the United States after frost destroyed most of Florida's citrus crop.
The Safras stood out as a Brazilian family whose businesses grew transnational but also remained loyal to their local roots. While banking is the axis of his activities, Joseph Safra has for years diversified his wealth by investing in paper and pulp, global real estate, telecommunications and cattle ranching. Continuación...