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Tyson’s acquisition of Hillshire Brands would be a ‘game changer’

May 29, 2014

Tyson Foods today upped the cash bid for acquisition of Hillshire Brands to $50 a share – $5 a share over Tuesday's bid by Pilgrim’s Pride.

With these two meat and poultry powerhouses now in a bidding war over Hillshire Brands, one wonders why their play for Hillshire did not come earlier.

Pilgrim’s Pride, in fact, met in February with Hillshire but had no success in arousing the acquisition target’s interest in a deal. After Hillshire agreed to acquire Pinnacle Foods, Pilgrim’s took its bid public on Tuesday.

Now, as Tyson Foods joins the competition to acquire Hillshire, one analyst asked Tyson CEO Donnie Smith: Why make the acquisition bid now? And why at the $50 a share price?

Tyson CEO Donnie Smith calls the deal “a game changer” for his company’s prepared foods margin structure.

On a pro forma basis alone, without accounting for any synergies in the business combination, the acquisition would result in a 310 point gain in return on sales for the combined companies.

Why make the bid for Hillshire now? Smith replied, “First, my confidence in our ability to absorb an acquisition of this size is much higher than it was a year ago. Second, going back to November, we have taken steps to get our organization in line to focus on and accelerate the growth in our prepared foods portfolio. And lastly, the financial profile of this transaction makes a lot of sense based on the level of accretion and returns that we expect to generate.”

Tyson CFO Dennis Leatherby said, “This acquisition is very critical to our strategic efforts.”

He pointed to the strategic benefits of combining the two companies' prepared foods and pork businesses.

Tyson Foods' prepared foods business is about 86 percent private label. Hillshire’s business is about 89 percent branded.

The power of combining the two companies is “phenomenal,” he said.

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