February 7, 2019 / 2:10 PM / 10 days ago

UPDATE 1-Shares of Brazil's BRF dive as cash-raising effort falls short

(Recast throughout, adds share performance)

By Alberto Alerigi and Carolina Mandl

SAO PAULO, Feb 7 (Reuters) - Brazilian food processor BRF SA on Thursday fell short of raising 5 billion reais at the end of an asset sale program, causing shares of the world’s largest chicken exporter to drop by almost 5 percent.

In a securities filing, BRF said it had completed all divestitures after agreeing to sell its units in Europe and Thailand to Tyson Foods for $340 million.

BRF said it raised a total of 4.1 billion reais ($1.10 billion) from the divestitures and other initiatives to raise cash, including issuance of securitized receivables and sale of non-core assets like real estate.

The shortfall will delay BRF’s plans to de-leverage the company by six months.

“We were expecting $480 million from the sale of Thailand and Europe’s assets, yielding a $140 million disappointment to our expectation,” Gustavo Troyano, equity research analyst at Itaú BBA, wrote in a note to clients.

Shares of BRF were trading at 23 reais, down 4.88 percent, in late morning trading on Sao Paulo’s stock exchange.

BRF said it will take longer than expected to lower its net debt-to-EBITDA ratio to three times, which was previously predicted to happen by December 2019. It now forecasts it will meet that target by June 2020.

BRF, which will report its 2018 earnings on Feb. 28, estimates its net debt-to-EBITDA ratio was five times in the fourth quarter of last year and will fall to 3.65 times by the end of this year.

BRF also said it will report cash on hand of about 7 billion reais ($1.9 billion) for the final quarter of last year.

The results of BRF’s cash-raising efforts underscore how its turnaround may take longer than expected.

Poor results and a federal investigation into the practices of the food industry in Brazil, which have tainted BRF’s reputation after it was accused of evading food safety checks, led to a complete overhaul of the company’s management in 2018.

As part of the turnaround, BRF in June announced a comprehensive restructuring plan.

On Tuesday, BRF appointed former Petrobras Chief Executive Ivan Monteiro as its new chief financial officer, driving shares up.

$1 = 3.7159 reais Reporting by Carolina Mandl and Alberto Alerigi Additional reporting by Paula Laier Writing by Ana Mano Editing by David Evans and Paul Simao

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