World’s Largest Produce Grower To Go Public

Dole Food Co Inc, the world’s largest producer of fresh fruits and vegetables, filed with U.S. regulators on Friday to raise up to $500 million in an initial public offering of common stock. Reuters News Service reported that Dole, founded in 1851, intends to list its common stock on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol "DOLE" and use proceeds to pay down debt and for other corporate purposes.

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For the first half of 2009, the company’s sales fell 11.1% to $3.3 billion and profits slid 18.3%. It had 2008 revenue of $7.6 billion and net income of $123 million, reported Reuters. Rival Chiquita Brands International Inc. had revenue of $3.6 billion and a net loss of $323.7 million in 2008, while Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc. had revenue of $3.53 billion and net income of $157.7 million.

Jefferies & Co analyst Scott Mushkin said given the company’s dominant market share and the nature of its business, there should be enough investor appetite for its shares at a decent price. “Their earnings are volatile. But these companies tend to dominate the businesses they are in,” Mushkin told Reuters. “Dole’s got the No. 1 share in the banana business and No. 2 in the bag salad business.”

Dole has been a private company since a $2.5 billion deal by investor David Murdock in 2003. In the filing, Murdock is listed as owning all of Dole’s common stock. To see the Reuters story, click here.