Chiquita Brands says it is rejecting a $611 million buyout offer — a reassuring move for prospects of the Port of New Orleans getting the company’s banana-shipping operations.
Chiquita shot down the offer made Monday by investment firm Safra Group and the Brazilian agribusiness and juice company Cutrale Group.
Chiquita said Thursday the offer is not in the best interest of shareholders. Instead, it will focus on a combination with Fyffes, of Ireland. The two companies agreed in March to merge in a stock-for-stock deal to create the world’s biggest banana supplier.
Chiquita said Thursday that the Fyffes combination will create a more competitive company.
Even if the other deal had gone through, port and state officials had said Tuesday that it would not derail Chiquita’s plans to move its banana-shipping operations to New Orleans.
Chiquita announced the New Orleans move in May. An LSU study shows Chiquita would create 240 to 350 new direct and support jobs.
Chiquita said its annual payroll will be at least $480,000. The company’s activity would boost shipping container traffic at the port by as much as 15 percent. Over 10 years, the move would add between $373 million and $485 million to the economy.
Chiquita’s first banana shipments in New Orleans are expected to begin by the end of the year.
Moving Chiquita’s shipping operations to New Orleans would make the port one of the main entry points for banana imports for the first time in roughly 40 years. Chiquita moved its shipping operations to Gulfport, Mississippi, in the 1970s.
Louisiana will provide up to $15.5 million over the next decade to offset Chiquita’s costs, make infrastructure improvements and build banana-ripening facilities.