Produce giant Dole Food Co. sold its worldwide canned food business to Japanese conglomerate Itochu Corp. on Tuesday, fetching $1.7 billion and marking the Westlake Village-based firm’s exit from Asia.
Proceeds from the all-cash sale, the biggest in Dole history, will be used to pay down debt, Dole said. Tokyo-based Itochu now has exclusive rights to the Dole trademark on packaged foods worldwide and on fresh produce in Asia, Australia and New Zealand.
The business units involved generated about $2.5 billion in revenue last year. Numerous analysts said the deal with Itochu fetched a higher-than-expected price.
Dole said earlier this year that it was considering spin-offs of several of its business units.
“When we announced our strategic business review in May, we stated that we would review a broad range of strategic alternatives for our businesses with the goal of enhancing shareholder value,” David A. DeLorenzo, Dole’s president and CEO, said in a news release on Sept. 17. “We believe this proposed transaction accomplishes that. We are realizing a premium valuation for our worldwide packaged foods and Asia fresh produce businesses and will retain a strong fresh produce business that has increased financial flexibility to grow.”
The two business units Dole is selling to Itochu had earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization of $190 million last year, the company said in the statement.
Dole shares were down 1.5 percent to $13.50 by mid-afternoon trading on Sept. 18.