Merger to make Chiquita world's biggest banana company

U.S. banana producer Chiquita Brands International and Ireland's Fyffes have agreed to merge and create the world's largest banana company.

The combined company, to be known as ChiquitaFyffes, is set to displace privately-held Dole from the No. 1 spot.

The United Nations reports that Chiquita once had a clear lead on banana sales, with more than a third of the global market in the 1960s. But by the end of the 1990s, Dole had caught it in global market share.

According to BananaLink, a public interest group, Dole today has about a 26% market share; Chiquita has 22%; Fresh Del Monte Produce has 15% and Fyffes has 7%. That means the top three companies will have 70% of the global market if the deal is allowed to go through.

The combined company will continue to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange, but will have its legal headquarters in Ireland. That is likely to provide tax savings for the company. U.S. drugmaker Perrigo achieved just that benefit last year with its relocation after its purchase of Irish drugmaker Elan.

Chitiqua current shareholders will receive one share in the new company for each of their shares, while Fyffes shareholders will receive a fraction of a share for each of their shares, which will represent a 38% premium for their current holdings.

Shares of Fyffes were up more than 30% in trading in London early Monday, while shares of Chiquita were up nearly 12%.

Current holders of Chiquita stock will hold a slight majority of shares in the combined company, which is estimated to have a market value just over $1 billion.

The deal needs the approval of a majority of Chiquita shareholders and 75% of Fyffes shareholders and could also be subject to review by U.S. and European regulators.

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