China’s appetite for pork spurs $4.7 billion Smithfield buy

NEW YORK, Thu May 30, 2013 — Shuanghui International Holdings is buying Smithfield Foods Inc., the world’s biggest hog producer, for $4.7 billion to feed a growing Chinese appetite for U.S. pork, in a deal that has stirred concern among U.S. politicians.
Announced on Wednesday, the takeover would be China’s biggest of a U.S. company, with an enterprise value of $7.1 billion, including debt, and follows a call by Smithfield’s largest shareholder, Continental Grain Co, to break up the company. Continental could not be reached for comment on Shuanghui’s proposal.
The deal highlights China’s growing appetite for protein-rich food, particularly pork, as its middle class expands, making China more reliant on foreign producers.
“I think this is a move by China to make sure their population is going to get fed in a cheaper manner. It’s the right move for them,” said Brian Bradshaw, a pig producer with operations in Illinois and Indiana, who has sold hogs to Smithfield. “Time will tell whether it’s the right move for the rest of the pork industry.”
The deal will face scrutiny by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, a government panel that assesses national security risks. At least one member of Congress said the deal raised alarms about food safety, noting Shuanghui was forced to recall tainted pork in the past.
“I have deep doubts about whether this merger best serves American consumers, and urge federal regulators to put their concerns first,” U.S. Representative Rose DeLauro, a Democrat from Connecticut, said in a statement.