Chiquita forms joint venture with Danone

by Keith Nunes
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CINCINNATI — Chiquita Brands International, Inc. has formed a joint venture with Groupe Danone, Paris, to market fruit beverages based on Chiquita’s Just Fruit in a Bottle product line in Europe. Under the terms of the agreement, Chiquita and Danone will become financial and operational partners in a new joint venture managed by Danone and headquartered in Paris as the exclusive distributor of Chiquita Just Fruit in a Bottle and all future Chiquita branded beverage products in Europe. Chiquita will provide local sales, marketing and supply chain services.

Chiquita will receive a one-time cash payment for a 51% interest in the joint venture and license its trademark to the new entity and expects the transaction to be immediately accretive to earnings. Full financial terms of the agreement have not been disclosed. The agreement will be fully executed once approved by European regulatory authorities and is expected to be completed in the first half of 2010.

“Chiquita’s partnership with Danone leverages both firms’ complementary strengths and will enable us to expand Just Fruit in a Bottle much faster and more efficiently across Europe, substantially increasing revenues and profitability,” said Fernando Aguirre, chairman and chief executive officer of Chiquita. “Combining our iconic brand equity, sales expertise, and strong supply chain management with Danone's complementary geographic presence and its world-class nutrition research and development capabilities will allow us to make our best innovation in Europe bigger, better and more profitable faster.”

The Just Fruit in a Bottle product line has been available in Europe for four years and its distribution network has reached 12 countries. Total sales for the product line was approximately €20 million ($26.8 million) during 2009.

“We are excited to partner with Chiquita in providing consumers with healthy, fruit-based, fresh products,” said Bernard Hours, co-chief operating officer of Danone. “The combination of Danone healthy European footprint together with Chiquita’s operational expertise in fruit-based drinks will create exciting growth opportunities.”

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