January 28, 2011 / 5:40 PM / 7 years ago

UPDATE 1-JBS shares fall amid fears of new bid for Sara Lee

* Shares down 3.7 pct

* Investors concerned over possible new bid for Sara Lee

* Sara Lee plans to split in two

* Brazil stock market drop also weighs on JBS (Updates with latest share fall, comments, background on Sara Lee split)

By Guillermo Parra-Bernal

SAO PAULO, Jan 28 (Reuters) - Shares of Brazilian meat company JBS (JBSS3.SA) fell 3.7 percent Friday on concern that the company will mount a new bid to gain control of Sara Lee Corp’s SLE.N meat business.

The board of the U.S. conglomerate said earlier in the day that Sara Lee would split into two public companies focusing on North American meats and international coffee, a move that could make it easier for suitors to buy the parts.

JBS has shown interest in the meats business but struggled to push forward with a bid for the entire company, sources told Reuters this week. Sara Lee was valued by some analysts at $12.5 billion, while JBS’ market capitalization is $11 billion.

“This decision to break up Sara Lee puts us all again at the starting point,” said Caue Pinheiro, an analyst at SLW Corretora in Sao Paulo who rates JBS shares “hold.”

“A bid could be easier to fund and make with a split Sara Lee,” Pinheiro said.

Voting shares of JBS were down 3.7 percent to 6.50 reais in midafternoon trading in Sao Paulo and touched 6.46 reais at one point, a two-month-low.

JBS shares have slumped 30 percent in the past 12 months.

    Analysts said acquiring Sara Lee, while helping JBS grow its U.S. business from slaughtering into a more stable and profitable processed-foods segment, could distract management from integrating the 14 acquisitions the company has made since 2007.

    It could also boost JBS’ debt, currently above the equivalent of three times operational earnings, they said.

    Stifel Nicolaus analyst Christopher Growe wrote in a report that splitting Sara Lee in two will make each segment more attractive to suitors and allow for greater focus and efficiency in the businesses.

    “We still believe JBS, for example, will pursue the meat business within North American retail, but the tax-free nature of this spinoff will likely lead to JBS having to wait two years due to the statutory requirements,” Growe said in a research note.

    The drop in JBS shares was also fueled by an overall decline in Brazilin stocks because of the political turmoil in Egypt and concern that Brazil’s government spending is spinning out of control.

    The Bovespa .BVSP, Brazil's main stock index, fell 3 percent on Friday.

    Sara Lee shares fell for a third day, shedding 2.2 percent to $17.25. (Additional reporting by Martinne Geller in New York; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and John Wallace)

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