July 16, 2018 / 2:12 PM / 4 months ago

UPDATE 1-Brazil's BRF hires three banks to advise on asset sales

(Recasts throughout to explain rationale for asset sales, background)

By Ana Mano

SAO PAULO, July 16 (Reuters) - Brazilian food company BRF SA has hired three banks to sell assets in Argentina, Europe and Thailand, according to a Monday securities filing, as it presses on with a plan to raise 5 billion reais ($1.30 billion) to cut debt.

BRF, one of the world’s largest pork and poultry processors, last month announced a large restructuring that will entail the asset sales and adjustment of operations in 22 of its 35 Brazilian plants to match production to falling demand.

The company took on debt over the years, expanding in South America and the Middle East, while facing operating roadblocks in its own home turf. BRF announced on June 29 it planned to securitize receivables as well as sell assets as a way to raise cash.

After feed prices rose sharply in 2016 because of a drought that affected Brazil’s corn supply, BRF last year was hit by a food sector probe that accused management of colluding with health inspectors to evade safety checks. This year BRF is facing trade bans from Europe and an anti-dumping measure from China affecting Brazilian chicken exports.

BRF has nine plants in Argentina, five units in Thailand and two in Europe, according to the filings.

The food processor on Monday said it had hired the investment banking units of Itaú Unibanco Holding SA and Banco Bradesco SA to advise it on the sale of its Argentine assets.

BRF is selling the Sadia brand in Argentina and additionally owns leading brands there such as Patty, Vienissima and Danica.

BRF also said that it had retained Morgan Stanley to advise the company on the sale of certain operations in Europe and Thailand.

Among the units on sale is Thailand’s chicken processor Golden Foods Siam Ltd, acquired in 2015 for $360 million. ($1 = 3.8538 reais) (Reporting by Ana Mano; Editing by Christian Plumb and Steve Orlofsky)

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