Wall Street bankers are trying to drum up interest in Sara Lee Corp.'s North American meat business, according to Smithfield Foods Inc., a potential suitor, Reuters reports.
"I can't go more than three days at a time before I have a major New York bank or investment bank coming to us to say, 'Boy, we would love to represent you in a Sara Lee acquisition,'" said Smithfield Chief Financial Officer Bo Manly during a conference call with analysts on Thursday. "I don't think necessarily we'll have to go to the table. I think the table will come to us."
Sara Lee expects to spin off its international coffee and tea business this year and relocate it to the Netherlands, leaving Sara Lee as a North American company selling products including Jimmy Dean sausages and Hillshire Farm lunch meat.
A Sara Lee spokesman declined to comment on whether the meat business is up for sale.
"Everybody will look at it. We will," Manly said, noting that Sara Lee's meat business would fit into Smithfield's branded meat portfolio, which includes Smithfield bacon and Farmland hams.
But Manly stopped short of declaring a strong interest in acquiring the Sara Lee business.
"There are many people out there that might have a greater interest in it than we do," Manly said.
"Back three years ago, we unplugged the phone as far as acquisitions were concerned. It wasn't a practical thing," Manly said. "We are now answering the phone. But frankly, good value is hard to come by at this point."