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Dole CEO Murdock makes $1.1-billion takeover bid

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David H. Murdock, the chief executive, chairman and largest shareholder of Dole Food Co., made an unsolicited offer to take over the Westlake Village company for $12 a share.

The bid, which values the world’s largest fresh fruit and vegetable producer at nearly $1.1 billion, represents an 18% premium over the stock’s $10.20-per-share closing price Monday.

On Monday night, Murdock presented his proposal to Dole’s board, which said Tuesday that it will meet in the next few days to review its options. In late morning trading, the company’s stock was up 21%, or $2.15 a share, to $12.35 a share.

“The process of considering the proposal is only in its beginning stages,” the board said in a statement.

Murdock, who also said he would assume the company’s debt in the transaction, owns nearly 40% of Dole’s shares along with family members.

The Los Angeles billionaire said the total enterprise value of the deal, which he hopes to solidify by the end of July, is $1.5 billion. Dole, which was founded in 1851 in Hawaii by a Harvard graduate with a yen for pineapples, reported net revenue of $4.2 billion last year, down 11% from the prior year.

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This wouldn’t be Murdock’s first run at the privatizing game. He last took over Dole more than a decade ago in 2003 – when he held just 24% of outstanding shares – but then took it public in 2009 in its second initial public offering.

This time around, analysts at Janney called Murdock’s proposal “an attractive transition that is likely to proceed at or relatively close to this price level,” despite what they called “tougher than average near-term trends in bananas.”

Working in the billionaire’s favor? His strong personal liquidity position, helped along by his recent sale of the Hawaiian island of Lanai for $500 million to Oracle honcho Larry Ellison.

In recent years, Dole has been seeking a smaller footprint.

In April, Dole wrapped up the sale of its global packaged foods and Asia fresh foods business – representing a third of its revenues and more than half of its operating income – to Japanese firm Itochu Corp. for nearly $1.7 billion.

ALSO:

Dole Food is focusing on low-hanging fresh fruit

Dole sells businesses to Japanese firm Itochu for $1.7 billion

Dole Food going public again with $500-million stock offering

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