Southeast Asia's largest food and beverage firm San Miguel is considering a bid for 40 per cent of Philippines' Del Monte Pacific, currently held by insolvent Italian food group Cirio.
Del Monte Pacific, which is listed in Singapore though most of its farming and processing operations are in the Philippines, is the world's biggest pineapple grower and canner. The company has a market capitalisation of about $424 million.
Tinned food producer Cirio, one of Italy's best-known brand names, defaulted on €1.1 billion in bonds in November 2002 and is being liquidated after investors rejected a restructuring plan.
Japanese conglomerate Sumitomo is another possible buyer of a 40 per cent stake in Del Monte Pacific. Sumitomo's business includes insurance, cement, forestry, and metal mining, while the corporation's rubber business owns the Dunlop and Goodyear brands.
Other potential buyers are food giant Heinz and US-based fruit distributor Fresh Del Monte. Fresh Del Monte has already bought former Cirio asset Del Monte Foods for $340 million.
However, San Miguel remains the favourite, although the company has been keen to point out that it is conducting due diligence on Del Monte Pacific and that no decision has been made on whether or not a definitive bid will be submitted.
The acquisition fits into San Miguel's strategy. The group, whose main business is beer, is trying to diversify its range of products. The company dominates many segments of the Philippine food and beverage market.
For example, it accounts for 90 per cent of beer and carbonated drink sales and at least 80 per cent of margarine and butter sales.
In addition, the group is keen to expand its operations abroad following slow market growth. Last year, the company unveiled a plan to invest $700 million to establish or expand its presence in seven Asian economies, including Thailand, Malaysia and Cambodia.
And according to the UK's Financial Times, new factories and warehouses are being built in Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and China. The group believes that overseas sales will account for 30 to 40 per cent of company revenues, up from 15 per cent last year.