Mexico's Sigma targets Spanish meats group Campofrio

Reuters

* Sigma says has commitments from 44.5 pct of Campofrioshareholders

* Launches full bid worth 695 million euros

* Acceptance from major shareholder Shuanghui key

* Campofrio shares jump 11 percent to 6.83 euros

By Tracy Rucinski

MADRID, Nov 14 (Reuters) - Mexican frozen food company SigmaAlimentos has launched a 695 million euro ($932 million)takeover bid for Spanish meat processor Campofrio at aprice analysts said could tempt its leading shareholder to sell.

Sigma said on Thursday it had secured commitments fromshareholders with 44.5 percent of Campofrio - a household namein Spain - meaning that it now needs to persuade China'sShuanghui International Holdings to part with its 37percent stake in the firm.

Analysts said that Sigma's offer of 6.8 euros per share - a10.6 percent premium to Wednesday's close - was only in linewith the sector average, an EV/EBITDA ratio of about 6.0, butcould be enough to win acceptance from Shuanghui.

Shuangui inherited its Campofrio stake when it bought U.S.pork producer Smithfield Foods for $4.7 billion earlier thisyear. It said in September it planned to reduce the holding toless than 30 percent by December - a move interpreted asbypassing a Spanish legal requirement to launch a bid andgaining time to consider its options.

Bankers said it seemed unlikely the Chinese group would wantto hold on to Campofrio given that its products - which includehot dogs and canned ham - have little appeal for Chineseconsumers.

Other industry sources have suggested Shuanghui is morelikely to be focused near term on integrating Smithfield ratherthan taking over Campofrio.

Sigma's offer represents a 24 percent premium to the 5.5euros per share at which Campofrio was trading when Shuanghuiannounced its intention to reduce its stake.

A Hong Kong-based spokeswoman for Shuanghui Internationaldeclined to comment on the matter.

Even if Shuanghui rejects the offer, Sigma may be able towoo minority shareholders to accept the bid and give it amajority stake above 50 percent, analysts said.

Campofrio shares jumped 11 percent to 6.83 euros, just abovethe bid price.

CROSSING THE ATLANTIC

Sigma's bid for Campofrio would allow the firm to expand itsfootprint from Mexico, where it sells well-known brands such asFud and Nochebuena, the United States, Central and South Americainto Europe, where Campofrio is a major player.

After a drawn-out economic crisis during which foreigninvestors shunned Spanish assets, a number of overseas buyersare starting to close deals in Spain, drawn by bargains and thecountry's exit from five years of stop-and-go recession.

Sigma, part of Mexican conglomerate Alfa's, saidits takeover bid follows an agreement to buy 44.5 percent ofCampofrio from shareholders Oaktree Capital, lender LaCaixa and Chairman Pedro Ballve for an undisclosed price.

Oaktree, with 24.25 percent of Campofrio, was considered apotential seller at the right price, while bank La Caixa, with4.17 percent, needs to sell assets to shore up finances.

Meanwhile, Sigma has offered to keep Ballve, who is sellinghis own 12.4 percent stake in the company and publicly backingthe takeover bid, as Campofrio chief as well as chairman of thewider Sigma group for the next five years.

As part of the agreement, Ballve will also receive financingfrom the Mexican group to buy back his stake once the takeoveris complete.

Campofrio posted underlying core profit of 100 million eurosin the nine months to Sept 30, down 3.7 percent from a yearearlier due to higher raw material costs.

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