Hillshire Brands likely a takeover target-analyst

Mon Jun 25, 2012 12:23pm EDT

(Reuters) - Hillshire Brands, set to become a pure-play meat company later this week, could attract takeover interest from Hormel Foods Corp (HRL.N), Tyson Foods Inc (TSN.N) and Smithfield Foods Inc SFD.N as well as Brazil's JBS (JBSS3.SA) and Brasil Foods (BRFS3.SA), an analyst said on Monday.

Sara Lee Corp SLE.N, the maker of Jimmy Dean sausages, Ball Park hot dogs and Hillshire Farms lunch meat, is expected to spin off its European coffee and tea business on Thursday. It will then change its name to Hillshire Brands.

A takeover of Hillshire Brands is "fairly likely," Bernstein Research analyst Alexia Howard said, adding that there was a range of potential suitors.

Hormel and Tyson are "clearly emerging as the two most likely winners," Howard said, noting that both companies have a strategic rationale for the deal as well as the financial capability.

Smithfield has neither the multiple nor the balance sheet strength to do it, Howard said. JBS likely has the appetite but not the financial strength, she said, adding that Brasil Foods was less likely since its lack of geographic overlap makes cost savings less likely.

Sara Lee, Tyson, Smithfield and Brasil Foods were not immediately available to comment on the report. JBS and Hormel declined to comment.

(Reporting By Martinne Geller in New York; Editing by Maureen Bavdek and Tim Dobbyn)

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