Chiquita gets buyout offer from Safra, Cutrale

by: Mark Becker Updated:

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Chiquita Brands has received an approximately $611 million buyout offer from investment firm Safra Group and agribusiness and juice company Cutrale Group.

Safra and Cutrale are offering $13 per share, a 29 percent premium to Chiquita Brands International Inc.'s closing price of $10.06 on Friday.

The unsolicited bid comes as Chiquita and Fyffes of Ireland were working on their own transaction. The two companies agreed in March to merge in a stock-for-stock deal to create the world's biggest banana supplier.

Safra and Cutrale said that they would like to hear back from Chiquita on their offer by noon on Friday.

Representatives from Chiquita and Fyffes did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment.

Shares of Chiquita surged $3.11, or 30.9 percent, to $13.17 in Monday afternoon trading.

“Is this a food fight? Yeah, it's a food fight,” said Adam C. Smith, an economics professor at Johnson and Wales University in Charlotte.

It’s food fight with a lot at stake including several hundred corporate jobs and a measure of civic pride.

Charlotte courted Chiquita heavily and under its proposed merger with Fyffe, Chiquita would move its corporate headquarters to Ireland but keep its North American headquarters and at least some of those corporate jobs here.

The two companies bidding for Chiquita have not said what they have planned for Charlotte if they are successful, but Smith said they could decide to leave the Chiquita brand on the city’s skyline.

“It's possible. The company would continue as is, especially if they see success in the brand -- they wouldn't want to mess as much with the status quo,” Smith said.

Chiquita Brands has received an approximately $611 million buyout offer from investment firm Safra Group and agribusiness and juice company Cutrale Group.

Safra and Cutrale are offering $13 per share, a 29 percent premium to Chiquita Brands International Inc.'s closing price of $10.06 on Friday.

The unsolicited bid comes as Chiquita and Fyffes of Ireland were working on their own transaction. The two companies agreed in March to merge in a stock-for-stock deal to create the world's biggest banana supplier.

Safra and Cutrale said that they would like to hear back from Chiquita on their offer by noon on Friday.

Representatives from Chiquita and Fyffes did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment.

Shares of Chiquita surged $3.11, or 30.9 percent, to $13.17 in Monday afternoon trading.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.