Moy Park, the UK's largest poultry producer, has been sold to JBS S.A., a Brazilian food group, for $1.5 billion (£945 million).
Headquartered in Craigavon, Moy Park has been owned my Marfrig Group, another Brazilian-based company since 2008.
According to the Belfast Telegraph, the purchase came as a shock – experts thought Marfrig planned to float Moy Park on the London Stock Exchange.
The purchase is expected to be completed in the second half of 2015 and is subject to approval from European Union antitrust authorities.
Jeremiah O'Callaghan, an investor relations officer at JBS S.A., said in a statement: "The Moy Park acquisition was valued at $1.5 billion (£945 million), adjusted by the working capital variation, as well as by the det debt of the Moy Park business at the conclusion of the transaction, which includes £300 million in Notes due in May 2021. The balance will be paid in cash at the conclusion of the acquisition."
Moy Park is currently the largest employer in Norther Ireland, providing jobs to 8,473 people. Last year, its pre-tax profits rose by 39 per cent to £33.7 million.
The Brazilian buyer has been working to expand its international operations for many years. In 2007, JBS S.A. moved into North America. The purchase of Moy Park will be its first step into Europe.
Mr O'Callaghan said that this step is an important part of the company's overall strategy.
"This transaction represents an important step in JBS's strategy to grow its portfolio of prepared and convenient products with high value added," he said.
He added that the acquisition will increase the company's geographic diversification.
"JBS management will keep the market informed about the development of this transaction until its conclusion, which is projected to happen in the second half of this year," he explained.
Marfrig has said that its reason for selling Moy Park was to reduce debts. The company now plans to focus on its operations in the US and Asia.
"The sale of Moy Park will enable Marfrig to have a greater focus in pursuing growth opportunities," the company said.
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