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Banana giant Chiquita rejects Brazilian takeover bid

NEW YORK – Banana giant Chiquita rejected Thursday the takeover bid by Brazil’s Cutrale and Safra groups, calling their offer “inadequate” and sticking to its plan to merge with European fruit seller Fyffes.

The board of Chiquita Brands International turned down the $13 a share, $611 million cash offer for all of its stock made Monday by Cutrale, a global power in orange juice and other fruit juices, and Safra, the wealthy Brazilian investment bank.

The offer “is inadequate and not in the best interests of Chiquita shareholders,” the board said. “Having made such a determination, Chiquita has determined not to furnish information to, and have discussions and negotiations with, the Cutrale Group and the Safra Group at this time.”

The board said it would continue to back the merger with Fyffes, which would create the world’s largest banana purveyor, with $4.6 billion in annual revenues.

That all-stock deal, announced in March, would allow Chiquita to avoid higher U.S. taxes by relocating its statutory headquarters to Ireland, a so-called tax inversion.

Chiquita shareholders are slated to meet and vote on the merger in a special meeting on Sept. 17.

But the board’s rejection Thursday appeared to leave the door open for a better offer from the two Brazilian suitors.

The two companies had argued that theirs was a better deal for shareholders, who have sold off Chiquita shares in the wake of strong comments by U.S. President Barack Obama and other top officials against tax inversions like that which Chiquita is planning.

Down about 17 percent since the Fyffes merger was announced, Chiquita shares jumped more than 30 percent Monday on the Cutrale-Safra offer.

Since then they have traded above $13, suggesting investors expect a better offer.

In after-hours trade Thursday, following the board’s rejection, the shares were at $13.50, barely changed from the day’s official close.

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