Japanese trading house Itochu yesterday said it was in talks with Dole Food to buy the US firm’s packaged-foods and Asian fresh fruit and vegetable businesses, reportedly for as much as US$1.7 billion.
Itochu will set up a new company in Tokyo to purchase the operations, subject to a finalized deal, it said in a statement.
The companies “are currently negotiating the terms of Itochu’s acquisition of the fruit and vegetable business in Asia and the global processed foods business held by Dole,” the statement said.
The announcement came as the leading Nikkei Shimbun reported that Itochu would pay as much as US$1.7 billion for the units, betting on strong growth for fruits and vegetables among Asia’s burgeoning middle class.
Itochu, one of Japan’s biggest trading houses that deals in everything from textiles and machinery to chemicals and food, and Dole are aiming to reach a final agreement this month, the report said.
Dole, which says it is world’s largest producer and marketer of fresh fruit and vegetables, posted sales of US$7.2 billion last year.
In a statement on its Web site, Dole confirmed that it was “in advanced negotiations with Itochu Corporation for the possible sale of its Packaged Foods and Asia Fresh businesses.
“No definitive agreements have been signed at this time, and Dole continues in discussions with several other parties regarding these assets and others,” it said.