JBS is back in the hunt for Sara Lee, source says

By Reuters
Posted Jan. 20 at 3:34 p.m.

A group of companies led by Brazilian beef processor JBS has arranged a financing package to bid for all or parts of Sara Lee Corp. , a source with direct knowledge of the situation told Reuters Thursday.

The group won commitments from international banks for loans and could tap equity markets to complete the funding package, said the source, who declined to be cited by name.

The source did not elaborate on the structure of the bid and declined to name other members of the group.

The JBS-led group and a group of buyout firms led by Apollo Global Management have shown interest in Sara Lee, which has businesses that include beverages, coffee and retail. Analysts value the company around $12.5 billion.

JBS is significantly leveraged after more than a dozen takeovers since 2007. The buys have catapulted the company into the big leagues as the world’s top beef producer, but also left it relatively short of cash as it engages in talks to buy Sara Lee.

The financial muscle required to buy Sara Lee is huge, if measured by the fact that it is bigger than JBS. The Brazilian company has a market value of about $11 billion, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Any decision to continue the talks hinges chiefly on the price per share that Sara Lee asks, said the source, who also expects Sara Lee’s board to meet Friday and pick a bidder to continue talks.

“It is in this meeting that (Sara Lee’s board members) will decide with whom they will continue talks,” the source said Thursday. “From there, any further development will probably be a function of the price offered.”

Integrating JBS’s U.S. unit and Sara Lee’s coffee and meat processing business could create value by providing a home for the trimmings of JBS’s cattle, poultry and pork slaughtering operations.

The deal could also help JBS boost its presence in processed foods, making it less dependent on commodities to ease swings in its profit margins. JBS could further gain by turning into a key supplier of meats to rival food processors.

Another source familiar with the process told Reuters last week that the Apollo-led consortium, which also includes Bain Capital and TPG Capital, is set to go back to Sara Lee by Jan. 21 with a progress report on the group’s potential offer.

New York-based Apollo, TPG and Bain did not have an immediate comment. The media office of JBS, which is based in Sao Paulo, declined to comment.

The media office of Sara Lee was not immediately available for comment.

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