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CEO Murdock to take Dole Food private in $1.21B deal

WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif. Dole Food said Monday its CEO will take it private, in a deal that values the company at approximately $1.21 billion.

Dole shareholders will receive $13.50 per share, a 5 percent premium to its $12.81 Friday closing price. This is a sweetened bid for the fresh fruits and vegetable business, up from the $12 per share Chairman and CEO David Murdock offered in June.

Dole currently has about 89.9 million outstanding shares, according to FactSet.

The company put the transaction’s total value at about $1.6 billion, which includes debt.

Dole Food Company Inc.’s stock jumped 64 cents, or 5 percent, to $13.45 in morning trading. The shares have traded in a 52-week range of $9.25 to $15.19.

Dole has gone through a number of major changes recently.

It sold its packaged foods and Asia fresh business for $1.69 billion in a deal that closed in April. That allowed Dole to become solely an international commodity produce company, with a narrower focus that also makes its earnings more volatile.

In May, Dole said it would indefinitely suspend its $200 million share repurchase program and use its cash instead to update its shipping fleet to enhance growth prospects. The company said that another factor in the suspension of the repurchase plan was the drag on earnings, due to recent losses in its strawberry business.

The acquisition will be financed with cash and equity from Murdock and financing committed by Deutsche Bank, Bank of America and The Bank of Nova Scotia.

Dole’s board unanimously approved the offer, which still needs the approval of at least a majority of outstanding shares held by stockholders other than Murdock and his affiliates. Murdock abstained from the board vote.

Murdock is best-known in North Carolina for investing $600 million to turn an abandoned Kannapolis textile mill into a multimillion-dollar nutrition research campus. The health-food devotee has also invested $131 million in an institute that bears his name.

Dole, which is based in Westlake Village, Calif., will have a 30-day go-shop period in which it can actively seek out alternative bids from other parties.

The deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter.

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