by Christopher Freeburn | January 28, 2013 11:18 am
The sale of Dole Foods’ (NYSE:DOLE) Asian fruit and packaged-foods business to Japan’s Itochu, announced in September, could give the company a chance to overhaul its operations and return capital to investors, according to Barron’s.
Investors must be reading the magazine. Shares of Dole surged more than 7% in Monday morning trading.
Proceeds from the sale will slash Dole’s existing debt. Barron’s notes that the company was trading at 6.7 times estimated 2013 pre-EBITDA earnings last week. The company also owns $500 million in farmland, which further reduces its enterprise value to four times estimated 2013 earnings.
Given these facts, Barron’s speculates that Dole’s share price could more than double, though it will take some time to reach that target. A more modest increase of 25% is anticipated for this year.
Dole returned to public trading in a 2009 IPO for $12.50 a share. It remains the top-ranked banana brand in Japan and North America, and is No. 2 in Europe. The company is expected to generate sales of $4 billion this year, producing profits of $76 million.
Company officials have not revealed any plans to return cash to its investors, but have hinted that Dole could purchase a competing business.
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