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Saudi’s Salic to invest in Brazilian meat producer IPO

Person, Human, Bird REUTERS/Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana
Saudi's Salic has committed to subscribing up to 50 percent of a potential offering by BRF

Saudi Arabia’s agricultural and livestock investment firm Salic has committed to buy shares in a potential $900 million stock offering by BRF SA, the Brazilian firm said, a move that would expand Salic’s footprint in the country’s meat industry.

Marfrig Global Foods SA, BRF’s controlling stakeholder, had also pledged to subscribe to the planned new share offer, BRF said in a filing on Wednesday. BRF shares jumped almost 16 percent on the news.

The move is seen as strategic for Saudi Arabia, a major buyer of Brazilian meat products. The Saudi government, through the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) which owns Salic, had previously partnered with BRF for a halal meat joint venture.

The fresh capital injection will be key to reduce BRF’s high financial leverage, analysts said.

Shares in BRF surged as much as 15.7 percent, making it the top gainer on Brazil’s benchmark stock index Bovespa, which slipped 0.3 percent. Marfrig stock rose around five percent.

“Saudi Arabia has been BRF’s largest chicken importer in recent years,” analysts at Bradesco BBI said in a note to clients, adding the proposed transaction could also “reduce investor concerns that recent cases of bird flu (so far only in wild birds) in Brazil could at some point lead to export restrictions.”

BRF said that Salic offered to subscribe as much as 50 percent of a potential offering of 500 million new shares in the firm, with Marfrig – which currently owns 33 percent of BRF – pledging to buy the remaining 250 million shares.

Under the terms of the deal, the offering must be priced at no more than 9.00 reais per share, a 23.8 percent premium over BRF’s closing price of 7.27 reais on Tuesday, meaning it would total 4.5 billion reais ($899.41 million).

Salic, which was formed in 2011 to secure food supplies for the desert kingdom through mass production and foreign investments, already holds a 31 percent stake in Brazilian beef-packer Minerva.

“Salic is a strategic investor and the partnership can and should improve BRF’s operations,” XP Investimentos analysts said in a note. “And the potential deleverage will bring an important cash flow relief for BRF.”

BRF said its board of directors has already approved engagement of a financial adviser to analyse the potential offering.

In a separate filing, meanwhile, Marfrig said it would launch a private capital increase for controlling shareholder MMS Participacoes to inject at least 1.5 billion reais in it.

MMS, owned by founder Marcos Molina and Marcia Santos, has committed to buying at least 240 million shares priced at 6.25 reais each in that private offering, Marfrig said. It noted the deal might reach as much as 360 million shares.

“Marfrig’s funds (for the BRF transaction) will come from its controlling shareholder, therefore not hurting Marfrig leverage,” XP Investimentos said.