Irish fruit firm Total Produce snaps up 45% stake in biggest banana distributor in States
The boss of Irish fruit and veg company Total Produce has hailed as "transformational" a deal that will see it acquire 45% of rival Dole - and possibly the entire business within two years.
Stock market-listed Total Produce has agreed to pay $300m (£210.5m) for the holding in the Californian firm.
It is entitled to immediately snap up another 6% of Dole if it wishes for a total of $12m (£8.4m) and two years from now has an option to buy the outstanding 49%, depending on Dole's performance.
Total Produce - already one of the biggest global fruit and vegetable distributors - now has a partner that sees the combined Total Produce-Dole group catapulted far beyond the size of its nearest rival.
Dole is the biggest banana distributor in North America, while Total Produce's biggest-selling category is stone and soft fruit.
The entire group will sell hundreds of millions of cases of fruit a year, from bananas to pineapples, as well as salads and other products.
The holding in Dole is being sold by 94-year-old David Murdock, who has controlled the company since 1985.
Total Produce executive chairman Carl McCann will become vice chairman of Dole, while Mr Murdock will remain chairman.
Mr McCann declined to comment on whether Total Produce plans to exercise its rights to increase its Dole stake and to eventually acquire it.
However, market expectations are that Total Produce will likely move to do so.
Mr Murdock visited Dublin to sign the deal with Total Produce on Wednesday.