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Chicken processor Pilgrim's Pride buys poultry supplier for $1 billion

U.S. poultry processor Pilgrim's Pride agreed on Monday to pay parent JBS SA about $1 billion for British subsidiary Moy Park, helping the Brazilian meatpacking giant retain a valuable asset amid a growing scandal.

In a statement, Pilgrim's Pride said the purchase of Moy Park was negotiated and approved by a special committee comprised of three independent board directors. The committee "was advised independently and had been granted full authority" over all aspects of the transaction, the statement said.

Under terms of the transaction, which will be funded with cash and debt to parent JBS, Pilgrim's Pride will allow Moy Park to remain based in Craigavon, Northern Ireland. Management at Moy Park, led by Chief Executive Officer Janet McCollum, will remain in place, the statement said.

The unusual structure comes as JBS, the world's No. 1 meatpacker, struggles with the aftershock of a corruption investigation ensnaring controlling shareholders Wesley and Joesley Batista. JBS, which paid $1.5 billion from Moy Park two years ago, is near completing an asset sale plan unleashed by the Batistas' admission to bribing 1,893 politicians in Brazil.

Pilgrim's expects the Moy Park purchase to generate $50 million in annualized cost savings over the next two years. The combination should be "immediately accretive to earnings per share," said the statement, noting the bid for Moy Park values the entire company at $1.3 billion.

Pilgrim's Pride shed 0.3 percent to $29 a share in Nasdaq trading on Monday. Shares of JBS reversed early losses and were adding 1.2 percent in late morning trading in São Paulo, arresting concern over revenue losses in a key market.

Moy Park supplies 25 percent of chicken consumed in western Europe and is one of the top 10 food companies in the United Kingdom.

JBS has controlled Pilgrim's Pride since 2009 after paying $2.8 billion for a stake that now is about 75 percent. The Brazilian company, also the world's No. 2 food processor, first announced plans to sell Moy Park on June 20.

Barclays acted as financial adviser to Pilgrim's while Evercore Inc worked with Pilgrim's special committee.

Reuters had reported on July 31 that JBS picked BNP Paribas SA to help sell Moy Park. Some companies that had expressed interest in purchasing Moy Park included China's WH Group and subsidiary Smithfield Foods, buyout firm CapVest Partners, Louis Dreyfus Co., and Groupe Bigard.