Bunge Ltd. executives may be left standing at the altar of a busted corporate marriage if their partner follows through with a threat to cancel the wedding.
Four months after Bunge, a White Plains-based agribusiness giant, announced plans to buy Corn Products International Inc., the proposed hookup hit a snag yesterday when the target company said its board withdrew its support for the acquisition.
The setback comes after a sharp plunge in Bungeâ€™s stock price cut the original $4.2 billion value of the deal by about 60 percent since it was announced in June.
â€œWe are disappointed by the Corn Products Boardâ€™s decision,â€ Alberto Weisser, Bungeâ€™s chairman and chief executive officer, said in a statement. â€œDespite the effect of unprecedented turmoil in the equity markets on our companiesâ€™ stocks, Bungeâ€™s board of directors and management continue to believe a merger with Corn Products as currently structured would deliver significant value over the long term to shareholders, employees and customers of both organizations.â€
A takeover of Corn Products would expand Bungeâ€™s product lineup to include corn sweeteners for soft drinks and processed foods. Customers for these sweeteners, starches and other ingredients include PepsiCo Inc. of Purchase and the Coca-Cola Co., among other major food and beverage companies.
Yet Bungeâ€™s stock price fell from a high of $135 in January to as low as $27.60 last month as investors grew concerned that the global financial crisis and economic slowdown could hurt demand for agricultural commodities that are Bungeâ€™s specialty.
Because Bungeâ€™s proposed buyout was an all-stock deal, the value of the takeover also plummeted.
Corn Products, based in Westchester, Ill., said the deal terms allowed its board to withdraw its recommendation to adopt the merger agreement following at least five days notice to Bunge. Bunge also can seek seek to recover $10 million in expenses if the buyout is halted, according to Corn Products.
Bunge said it is considering how to respond to Corn Products.
â€œWe have no intention of revising the terms of the transaction,â€ Weisser said. â€œWe intend to evaluate carefully, with the best interests of Bungeâ€™s shareholders in mind, our options of either terminating the agreement or proceeding to shareholder votes under the existing agreement.â€
Bunge shares fell $1.15 to $44.16 in trading yesterday on the New York Stock Exchange. Shares of Corn Products rose 87 cents to $26.27.