JBS pulls plan for U.S. unit IPO


Sao Paulo/Brasilia | Reuters –– JBS SA has pulled a planned US$500 million U.S. initial public offering of processed food subsidiary JBS Foods International BV, almost six months after a spree of corruption and food safety scandals in Brazil hurt investor demand for the deal.

In a Friday filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, JBS Foods International requested a withdrawal of the IPO. While neither company gave a new timetable for the IPO, JBS said in a statement to Reuters that a U.S. listing of JBS Foods “is the best way possible to maximize shareholder value.”

Parent JBS and the processed food subsidiary first announced plans for a U.S. offering on Dec. 5. Sao Paulo-based JBS, the world’s No. 1 meatpacker, reaffirmed plans to list the subsidiary in August, saying a transaction could take place by the end of next year.

The proposal for the JBS Foods International IPO was first put to test in March, after a scandal over an alleged bribery of health officials triggered bans on Brazilian meat exports. Two months later, two members of the family that controls JBS agreed to a plea bargain deal in Brazil relating to a corruption probe.

A collapse of the plan is a setback for Brazil’s billionaire Batista family, which owns 42 per cent of JBS and saw the IPO as a way to improve JBS’s global standing. The transaction was seen as a way to help decouple JBS’s businesses from Brazil — where reputational issues have impaired share performance in recent months.

Reuters reported in March and in May, shortly after the food safety and corruption scandals, respectively, that JBS would press ahead with the US$1 billion IPO plan despite dwindling investor confidence.

Common shares fell 0.6 per cent to 8.60 reais (C$3.39) on Monday. The stock is down 25 per cent so far this year.

Brothers Wesley and Joesley Batista were arrested last month in connection with insider trading and other offenses related to their plea deal. Wesley, the elder of them and also JBS’s former chief executive, quit as a result.

Both brothers will face trial for carrying out stock and foreign exchange transactions based on knowledge of their plea deal, a federal court confirmed on Monday. Both have been charged last week on the same case.

Both Batistas worked personally on the refinancing of 21 billion reais (C$8.3 billion) in short-term debt of JBS and spearheaded the sale of several assets, including the company’s cattle feedlot at Brooks, Alta.

Among the international operations that would have been included in the JBS IPO is one of Canada’s biggest beef packing plants, also at Brooks, with capacity to process up to 4,200 head of cattle per day.

Reporting for Reuters by Guillermo Parra-Bernal and Jake Spring.

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