Chiquita Brands International on Thursday said that its board had unanimously rejected the latest offer by two Brazilian companies to buy the Charlotte-based banana company for $14 per share.
Instead, the Chiquita board reaffirmed its recommendation that shareholders vote on Oct. 24 in favor of a proposed all-stock merger with Irish produce company Fyffes.
The decision comes a day after Cutrale, an orange juice maker, and Safra Group, a banking conglomerate, sweetened their unsolicited bid for Chiquita from $13 per share. Representatives of the Brazilian companies did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The rejection is the latest twist in a corporate tussle that began in March, when Chiquita and Fyffes announced a merger that would create the world’s largest banana company, leapfrogging Dole. The Brazilian companies stepped in with their own offer in August.
In a statement Thursday, Chiquita stood by its analysis that the Fyffes combination could be worth more to shareholders in the long run, as much as $20.01 per share. The company also said the Cutrale/Safra offer was not irrevocable, meaning shareholders have no assurance that the $14 per share bid will still stand should a vote for the Fyffes deal fail.
Chiquita and Fyffes enhanced the terms of their proposed merger last month in an attempt to woo shareholders. Under the revised agreement, the companies said Chiquita shareholders would get almost 60 percent of the stock in the combined company, to be known as ChiquitaFyffes. That’s up from just over 50 percent in the previous agreement.
ChiquitaFyffes would be based in Dublin. Company executives have said most of the 320 workers Chiquita employs at its headquarters in Charlotte’s NASCAR Plaza would stay. Cutrale and Safra haven’t disclosed any plans for the Charlotte headquarters.