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Aug. 8, 2021, 7:33 p.m. EDT

Chicken producer Sanderson Farms nears $4.5 billion sale

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Cara Lombardo, Jacob Bunge

Sanderson Farms Inc. is nearing a deal to sell itself for around $4.5 billion, according to people familiar with the matter, as the poultry giant rides a wave of demand for chicken products.

Sanderson is in advanced talks with Cargill Inc. and agricultural-investment firm Continental Grain Co., which owns a smaller chicken processor, the people said. The deal could be finalized by Monday, they said.

It would value Sanderson at $203 a share, about 30% above the price before The Wall Street Journal reported in June that the company had  attracted interest from suitors  including Continental.

Mississippi-based Sanderson is the country’s third-biggest chicken producer. It runs 13 poultry plants from North Carolina to Texas, processing about 13.6 million chickens a week. The company supplies grocery chains including Walmart Inc. /zigman2/quotes/207374728/composite WMT +0.77%  and Albertsons Cos. /zigman2/quotes/209620932/composite ACI +0.90% as well as restaurant distributors like Sysco Corp. /zigman2/quotes/205335941/composite SYY -0.57%  and U.S. Foods Holding Corp.  /zigman2/quotes/202988961/composite USFD -0.05% .

Combining Sanderson with Georgia-based Wayne Farms LLC, a poultry company owned by Continental, would form a new competitor representing about 15% of U.S. chicken production, according to data from Watt Poultry USA. Tyson Foods Inc. /zigman2/quotes/201117502/composite TSN +0.35%  leads the industry with about one-fifth of the market, while Pilgrim’s Pride Corp.  /zigman2/quotes/204152423/composite PPC -1.23%  represents about 16% of the national total.

An expanded version of this report appears on WSJ.com.

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