China’s WH Group Ltd, (0288.HK), owner of Smithfield Foods Inc., the world’s largest pork producer, is scouting for US and European beef and poultry assets to buy, in a move that would sharpen its rivalry with global meat packers Tyson Foods Inc. and JBS SA, Reuters reports.
Expanding into beef and poultry would bring US-based Smithfield more in line with competitors Tyson, JBS and BRF SA, which process pork, chicken and beef.
Smithfield chief executive Ken Sullivan told Reuters he is interested in the potential of diversifying into other meats to broaden the company’s product portfolio, though no deals were imminent.
“We’re a food company,” he said. “No one said that we’re strictly a pork company.”
Sullivan did not provide further detail, but parent WH Group is looking for targets in beef and poultry in the United States and Europe, according to Luis Chein, WH Group’s director of investor relations. He declined to name specific targets.
Chein declined to provide a timeline for expanding into the US beef and poultry business or say how much money the company aims to spend.
It is an attractive time to enter the beef business, Chein said, because China last month agreed to resume US imports after blocking most shipments since a US scare over mad cow disease in 2003.
WH Group, which spent US$4.7 billion for Smithfield in 2013, still has firepower for further buying, with bank balances and cash of US$1.14 billion at the end of last year and US$2.72 billion in unutilized banking facilities, according to its latest annual report.
– Contact us at [email protected]