U.S.: Chiquita denies speculation over Charlotte withdrawal

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U.S.: Chiquita denies speculation over Charlotte withdrawal

Chiquita Brands International (NYSE: CQB) has refuted speculation that its recent merger announcement with Ireland-based Fyffes Plc (ESM: FFY) could threaten operations at its current headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina.bananas_square

The proposed incorporation of ChiquitaFyffes in Ireland rather than the United States sent a scare through the Charlotte community, where Chiquita has held its headquarters for two years.

Under a previously established agreement with the city of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, Chiquita Brands benefits from incentives based on the company's local job creation.

Although media reports have indicated this agreement obligates Chiquita to operate its headquarters out of Charlotte for 10 years, Chiquita media contact Ed Loyd said the actual deal varies.

"The incentives were based upon the value of the job creation of employees (and the average value of those jobs being more than $100,000) that we brought here and the capital we invested in building out the corporate office space, not on the fact that this was a 'headquarters'," Loyd told www.freshfruitportal.com.

Loyd dismissed concerns that Chiquita may abandon its Charlotte base, saying the company had no plans to leave the southern city behind.

"At the end of the day, the Chiquita logo will continue to shine on the Charlotte skyline and the amount of incentives we realize will be based on the number of jobs that we create in Charlotte over that time," he said.

Loyd pointed to an open letter, sent from Chiquita to the Charlotte community on March 12, reassuring the city that its 310 employees would remain in North Carolina.

"To help put our headquarters employee presence in perspective, the vast majority of our senior executive and corporate employees will continue to be in the U.S. and Charlotte specifically. Compared to the Fyffes corporate office in Dublin today, there is a more than a 25-to-1 ratio of corporate employees in Charlotte over Dublin," Chiquita said in the letter.

Mayor Patrick D. Cannon's press contact, Colleen Brannan, said no changes had been made to the city's official stance toward the Chiquita deal since its last statement on March 10.

"We congratulate Chiquita and are proud that Charlotte will be a key base of operations for ChiquitaFyffes, the world’s number one producer and distributor of bananas. The merger also opens up new opportunities, markets, and product lines for the company, and we believe Charlotte stands to benefit from today’s news," the mayor's office said on March 10.

"Every economic development incentive grant approved by the City and County contains provisions that require the recipient to repay all or a portion of the grant, should it fail to meet the terms of the grant.

"Based on the most current information, it is not anticipated that this merger will affect the status of the local grants, but City staff will review this further in the coming weeks as more information becomes available."

Photo: www.shutterstock.com




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