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Pro Analysis

Analyst sees Tyson cut in half in lawsuit fallout

A package of Tyson Foods Inc. chicken is arranged for a photograph in Tiskilwa, Illinois.
Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images
A package of Tyson Foods Inc. chicken is arranged for a photograph in Tiskilwa, Illinois.

Pivotal lowered its rating on Tyson Foods to sell from buy, predicting the attention from a class-action lawsuit filed against the chicken industry over alleged price-fixing will hurt future profits.

The Sept. 2 lawsuit alleges the defendants "conspired to unlawfully fix, raise, maintain and stabilize the price of broiler chickens by coordinating and limiting their production capacity." Tyson Foods and 13 other poultry producers were named in the complaint.

"We've been a huge bull on Tyson; this downgrade does not happen without considerable thought," analyst Timothy Ramey, wrote in a note to clients Friday.

"Our thesis is that the class-action suit has merit and will lead to intense scrutiny of the broiler sector. ... The sustainability of chicken margins could logically be questioned."

Tyson Foods issued a statement responding to Pivotal's report midday Friday:

"An analyst report has been issued this morning commenting on pending antitrust litigation which was filed over a month ago. While we don't normally make substantive comments regarding pending litigation, we dispute the allegations in the complaints as well as the speculative conclusions reached by the analyst, and we will defend ourselves in court. Contrary to what the analyst assumed, we have not made any changes to our business practices in response to the complaints."