Shuanghui International

Shuanghui wins over Smithfield shareholders

Approval of US$4.7b deal follows US political opposition to the takeover by mainland firm

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 September, 2013, 4:15am

Smithfield Foods shareholders have voted in favour of Shuanghui International's US$4.7 billion deal, approving the largest Chinese purchase of a United States company.

The US$34-a-share offer for the world's largest producer of hogs and pork was approved by 96 per cent of voting shareholders, chief executive Larry Pope said at a special meeting in Richmond, Virginia, yesterday.

Shuanghui agreed to buy the meat processor in May. An alternative plan from an activist shareholder to split the company into three parts was abandoned before the vote.

"China needs our product bad, and we need to sell it," Maynard Gwaltney, a Smithfield shareholder, said after the meeting. "It's a good merger for both parties for the future and it's the way to go."

The purchase drew criticism from some lawmakers who raised concerns that it may transfer food-safety issues from China to the US. The bid for Smithfield underscores the increased demand for meat, particularly pork, from China's middle class.

The acquisition price was fair and the deal might mean growth in the US with new plants and more hog farms to meet China's demand, Gwaltney said.

The deal received clearance from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US, the companies said on September 6. Proxy advisory firms Glass Lewis and Institutional Shareholder Services recommended voting for the deal this month.

Starboard Value, the activist investor that has advocated a break-up of Smithfield since June, was unable to offer an alternative to Shuanghui's offer, according to a filing on Friday.

In the absence of another bid, Starboard had planned to vote in favour of Shuanghui's offer.

Smithfield faced demands to increase returns for investors in March from shareholder Continental Grain as rising animal-feed costs made hog production unprofitable. Continental said in April that a break-up into three businesses would achieve a stock price of US$40 within three years. Continental subsequently backed the Shuanghui bid and sold its holding.

Smithfield shares have gained 31 per cent since Shuanghui's bid was announced.