(Adds J&F declining to comment)
By Tatiana Bautzer
SAO PAULO, June 13 (Reuters) - Fábrica de Produtos Alimentícios Vigor SA is being offered to about half a dozen peers including Groupe Lactalis SA and Danone SA, as the Brazilian dairy producer’s owners raise cash to pay the world’s largest leniency fine and other debts, two people with knowledge of the process said on Tuesday.
The process to sell Vigor, which the investment banking units of Banco Santander Brasil SA and Banco Bradesco SA are advising, is in an initial stage, said the people, who declined to elaborate on the bidding process.
Apart from both French dairy producers, other companies invited to analyze Vigor’s business include Mexico’s Grupo Lala SAB de CV and Switzerland’s Emmi AG, the people said. So far, no price or a deadline for offers was decided, and there is no certainty a deal can be reached, the people said.
The media office of Danone and J&F declined to comment. Lala, Lactalis, Emmi and the banks did not immediately comment on the matter. The people asked for anonymity to speak freely about the process.
The plan comes two weeks after J&F Investimentos SA, the family holding company that controls Vigor, agreed to pay a record-setting 10.3 billion-real ($3.1 billion) leniency fine. J&F also needs cash to repay about 14 billion reais in loans coming due within the next 12 months, Reuters reported on June 7.
Members of J&F’s Batista family entered plea deals in which admitted bribing politicians to win advantages for their meatpacking, financial, pulp and apparel empire.
Foreign interest on Vigor, a relevant player in Brazil’s dairy market, has lingered for years. J&F and other companies discussed potential mergers and acquisitions for Vigor, but those talks always floundered because of price issues, sources told Reuters in recent months.
$1 = 3.3120 reais Editing by Guillermo Parra-Bernal and David Gregorio