Total Produce-Dole buy to be Assessed in July


The European Commission is due to decide by July 16 whether to wave through Total Produce's €260m purchase of a stake in US rival Dole, in a deal that could lead to the creation of an industry behemoth with combined sales of €8bn.

The Irish-based fruit and vegetable distributor unveiled the acquisition of a 45pc slice of Dole, which is controlled by 95-year old billionaire, David H. Murdock, in February of this year.

The transaction requires regulatory approval from both sides of the Atlantic but Total Produce's chief executive, Rory Byrne, had voiced fears the EU competition watchdog could delay the deal's consummation until the end of the year.

A regulatory filing, however, shows the acquisition will be assessed next month.

If the deal receives the green light from regulators, Total Produce, which distributes more than 400 million cartons of fresh produce annually and operates 146 operating facilities worldwide, and Dole chairman Mr. Murdock, will run the partially merged entity as a joint venture.

Total Produce, which was spun out of Fyffes in 2006, and is chaired by Carl McCann, has the option to move to full control of Dole within five years.

However, the California-based company, which ranks as the biggest banana distributor in its domestic market, remains saddled with $1bn (e860m) in debt and posted a net loss last year of $16m.

Before delisting, Dole offloaded its packaged foods and Asia fresh produce businesses to Japan's Itochu Corp for $1.7bn, shrinking itself by a third, to help pay off its banks.

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