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Pilgrim’s Pride sweetens bid to buy Hillshire Brands

June 3, 2014, 11:51 AM UTC
Tyson Foods Makes Offer For Hillshire Brands
MIAMI, FL - MAY 29: In this photo illustration, Hillshire Brands food products are seen on May 29, 2014 in Miami, Florida. Tyson Foods made a $ 6.8 billion all-cash proposal to aquire Hillshire Brands whose brands include among others Jimmy Dean sausages and Ball Park hot dogs. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Joe Raedle—Getty Images

Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. (PPC) has sweetened its bid to buy Hillshire Brands Co. (HSH) with a new roughly $6.7 billion offer that now tops the amount offered by rival Tyson Foods Inc. (TSN) last week.

In the latest twist to the escalating takeover battle for Hillshire, known for its iconic Jimmy Dean and Hillshire Farms brands, chicken producer Pilgrim’s Pride said it is now willing to pay $55 a share to complete the acquisition, $10 above the company’s previous offer and $5 above what Tyson bid.

Pilgrim’s Pride, which unveiled its takeover bid before Tyson, said the new offer was a 49% premium over Hillshire’s share price one day before it announced its own takeover bid earlier in May to acquire Pinnacle Foods Inc. (PF). The Hillshire-Pinnacle Foods deal would be terminated if either the Pilgrim’s or the Tyson bids were successful.

“Pilgrim’s is confident the transaction is strategically and financially compelling, and creates considerable value for the shareholders of both Pilgrim’s and Hillshire,” the company said in a prepared statement.

Both protein producers are interested in Hillshire as they aim to sell more name-brand meats in America’s supermarkets and other national chains. Hillshire, which generates about $4 billion in annual sales, is heavily titled toward higher-margin branded products sold almost entirely in the U.S. Hillshire, previously known as Sara Lee Corp., is now a pure-play meat company that analysts saw as a potential takeover target after it spun off its coffee and tea businesses and sold other assets.

Meanwhile, Tyson and Pilgrim’s are both large meats producers that generate a sizable portion of their sales from food service operations, while Hillshire generates a bulk of its sales from the retail sales of packaged meats and frozen bakery products.

Hillshire, in a prepared statement, said it doesn’t intend to withdraw or modify its own merger agreement with Pinnacle Foods, and is not making any recommendation in regard to the takeover offers it has received.

“There can be no assurance that any transaction will result from these proposals,” Hillshire said.

A Tyson spokesman said the company was aware of the new Pilgrim’s offer, but had “no comment.”