A new $611 million offer for Chiquita Brands International may complicate the company’s planned merger with Fyffes PLC, of Ireland, but it won’t affect Chiquita’s plan to move its banana-shipping operations to the Port of New Orleans, according to state and local officials.
“We would not expect there to be any impact,” Port of New Orleans spokesman Matt Gresham said Tuesday.
Chiquita told Louisiana’s economic development department that the buyout offer doesn’t change Chiquita’s plans to move forward in New Orleans, according to LED Secretary Stephen Moret.
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.
In March, Chiquita and Fyffes announced a stock-for-stock deal under which Chiquita shareholders would own roughly 50.7 percent of ChiquitaFyffes, with Fyffes shareholders owning around 49.3 percent of the new company. The combined company would have $4.6 billion in annual revenue.
On Monday, private equity firm Safra Group and Brazilian agribusiness giant Cutrale Group announced an unsolicited cash offer of $13 per share for Chiquita. Chiquita shares, which closed Friday at $10.06 immediately jumped 30 percent to more than $13.
Cutrale and Safra said they could close the deal by the end of the year, without the risk and uncertainty involved in the merger with Fyffes.
Chiquita issued a statement saying the company would “carefully review and consider” the offer, but Chiquita continues “to strongly believe” in the strategic merits and value of the proposed merger with Fyffes.
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.