Dole Plans Acquisition of Produce Businesses

Dole Food Co. of Westlake Village, which has been hit by the downturn in world banana prices, is considering the acquisition of several small, non-banana produce businesses, Chairman David H. Murdock said.

Addressing Dole's annual meeting in Los Angeles last week, Murdock gave no details of specific companies that Dole was targeting, but said they would complement Dole's existing fruit and vegetable businesses. The percentage of Dole's revenue from bananas has already fallen to 30% from around 50% several years ago.

Murdock, who is Dole's largest shareholder, said the company was considering "how best to further separate Dole's real estate assets from its food assets" and maximize shareholder value. In March, Dole completed the sale to the public of 18% of Castle & Cooke Homes Inc., its residential real estate operation.

During the first quarter of this year, Dole earned $53.3 million on revenue of $766.5 million. The earnings included a $31-million pretax gain from the partial spinoff of Castle and Cooke Homes.

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