* JBS abandons National Beef takeover
* Q4 EBITDA up 180 percent
* Customers holding less stock
* JBS shares rise 3.6 percent
(Recasts first sentence, adds comments by JBS president, U.S.
senator, adds share movement, other details)
SAO PAULO, Feb 20 (Reuters) - Brazil's JBS
world's largest beef producer and owner of JBS-Swift, has
abandoned its attempt to take over U.S. meat company National
Beef Packing Company LLC, saying it could not work out an
agreement with U.S. authorities over terms of the deal.
JBS became the No. 3 U.S. beef producer in 2008 when it
bought the beef operations of Smithfield Foods Inc
which included beef plants and the Five Rivers Ranch cattle
At that time it also tried to buy National Beef in a deal
valued at $970 million in cash, stock and debt.
Since then, the Brazilian company has been in talks with
the U.S. Justice Department about selling assets in order to
gain approval to buy National Beef.
But JBS said U.S. authorities insisted it sell two of its
eight North American units so that it did not surpass the size
of U.S. food giants Tyson Foods Inc
and Cargill Inc,
after which "it decided not to go forward with the
"We fought hard but unfortunately the Department of Justice
wanted to keep us the same size as Tyson and Cargill," said JBS
President Joesley Mendonca Batista.
JBS shares jumped after the company was left with a large
cash holding when the deal fell through. Shares were trading up
3.6 percent at 4.63 reais, while the main Bovespa index
was down more than 3 percent.
The Justice Department and 13 states had filed a lawsuit in
federal court in October seeking an order to stop the proposed
deal, arguing it would create the largest U.S. beef packer,
slaughtering about 35 percent of U.S. cattle.
U.S. antitrust authorities feared the deal would push down
the price that slaughterhouses pay cattle ranchers, as well as
raise prices consumers must pay for beef.
The complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago said
that the major packers -- JBS, National, Tyson and Cargill --
together slaughtered more than 85 percent of U.S. cattle.
"This deal would have substantially injured competition, and
would have harmed ranchers and consumers," said Sen. Herb Kohl,
a Wisconsin Democrat and chairman of the Senate antitrust
Earlier on Friday, JBS posted a consolidated fourth-quarter
loss of 53.5 million reais ($23 million), compared with a loss
of 136 million reais in the year-earlier quarter.
"Despite the consumption of beef protein having suffered
little change in the past months, the lack of credit for exports
has provoked the reduction in stocks in importer countries," JBS
said in its earnings report.
Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and
amortization rose 180 percent to 265.9 million reais in the
three months to end-December.
JBS posted a consolidated 2008 net profit of 25.9 million
reais, compared with a loss of 165 million reais a year earlier.
Full-year EBITDA nearly doubled to 1.16 billion reais.
The company has expanded rapidly in recent years with
acquisitions of other beef processors in Brazil and abroad.
In 2008, the company bought a 50 percent stake in Italy's
Inalca, Australia's Tasman Group as well as Smithfield Food's
beef operations. JBS had previously purchased Greeley,
Colorado-based beef and pork processor Swift & Co.
JBS said it was still difficult to foresee the recovery of
consumer confidence under the current global financial crisis
but it was prepared to endure a prolonged period of
($1 = 2.369 Brazilian reals)
(Reporting by Roberto Samora and Reese Ewing in Brazil, and
Diane Bartz in Washington, editing by Will Waterman and Matthew