There’s always money in the banana merger

The 144-year-old U.S. fruit supplier Chiquita Brands International Inc. agreed Monday to merge with Irish tropical-fruit firm Fyffes to create the world’s largest banana company.

The $1.07 billion all-stock deal would vault the new company — known as ChiquitaFyffes — to the world’s No. 1 supplier with an expected $4.6 billion annual revenue from about 160 million boxes of bananas.

“This is a milestone transaction for Chiquita and Fyffes that brings together the best of both companies,” said Ed Lonergan, Chiquita Chief Executive and future chairman of ChiquitaFyffes. “As a combined company we are better placed in a highly competitive market.”

The proposed merger will carve out some 14 percent of the $7 billion global banana market. It is poised to capitalize on a growing global demand for the potassium-rich fruit and to gain considerable negotiating power at a time when supermarkets are trimming prices due to an economic downturn.