Hillshire Brands Co. said Tuesday that it is conducting separate talks with suitors Tyson Foods Inc. and Pilgrim's Pride Corp., which are competing to buy the maker of Ball Park franks and Jimmy Dean sausage.
Pilgrim's Pride confirmed Tuesday that it has increased the price it is willing to pay for Hillshire Brands to $55 a share, or about $6.7 billion, topping the bid made Thursday by Tyson Foods of $50 a share, or $6.1 billion. On May 27, Pilgrim's Pride made an unsolicited bid for the Chicago food company of $45 a share, or about $5.5 billion.
Industry experts say Tyson and Pilgrim's Pride, which is owned by Brazilian meat processor JBS, are trying to expand beyond the sometimes volatile sector of fresh meat and get into the more stable and more profitable prepared food business.
Tyson, the largest U.S. meat processor by sales, and Pilgrim's Pride, the world's second-largest chicken producer after Tyson, are vulnerable to weather and other adverse events that squeeze beef, pork and poultry supplies.
The offers require Hillshire to abandon its plans to buy Pinnacle Foods Inc., owner of brands such as Duncan Hines, Mrs. Butterworth's and Vlasic pickles.
Hillshire shares rose $5.08, or 9.5%, to $58.65 on Tuesday, above the Pilgrim's Pride offering price.
Tyson shares were down $1.32, or 3%, to $42.08. Pilgrim's Pride shares declined 58 cents, or 2.2%, to $25.34.
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