Tyson to divest Heinhold pork business

by Keith Nunes
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WASHINGTON — If Tyson Foods Inc. follows through on a proposed settlement with the US Department of Justice’s Antitrust division, the company may acquire Hillshire Brands for approximately $8.5 billion.

The proposed settlement centers on Tyson Foods’ pork assets. The company must divest itself of its Heinhold Hog Markets business within 90 days of Aug. 27. Both Heinold Hog Markets and Hillshire Brands buy sows from US farmers. Heinold Hog Markets buys sows from farmers, sorts the sows at buying stations and resells and trucks the sows to sausage processors. Hillshire buys sows directly from farmers, which it then makes into sausage sold under the Jimmy Dean and Hillshire Farm brands.

The acquisition of Hillshire by Tyson Foods would combine two major purchasers of sows from farmers in the United States and eliminate the benefit farmers have received from the competition between Hillshire and Tyson’s Heinold Hog Markets, according to the DOJ.

“Farmers are entitled to competitive markets for their products,” said Bill Baer, assistant attorney general in charge of the antitrust division. “Today’s proposed settlement will help ensure that hog breeders in the United States will continue to receive the benefits of vigorous competition when selling sows. Without the divestiture, the proposed acquisition would have eliminated a significant customer for farmers’ sows and likely would have resulted in less competition in this important agricultural market.”

Three state attorneys general from Illinois, Iowa and Missouri joined the DOJ in a civil lawsuit filed Aug. 27 in the US District Court for the District of Columbia to block the proposed transaction. At the same time, the department filed a proposed settlement that, if approved by the court, would resolve the competitive concerns alleged in the department’s lawsuit.
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