November 8, 2019 / 7:56 AM / in 7 months

S.Africa's Tiger Brands looking at sale of processed meats business

A couple leaves Tiger Brands factory shop in Germiston, Johannesburg, South Africa, March 5, 2018. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa’s Tiger Brands is exploring the sale of its processed meats business, which was temporarily closed last year following the world’s largest ever listeria outbreak, it said on Friday.

The company is facing a class action lawsuit over its role in the incident, in which a listeriosis outbreak that killed more than 200 people in South Africa was traced back to a factory run by Tiger Brands-owned Enterprise Foods.

The country’s leading food producer said its Value Added Meat Products (VAMP) division had been earmarked for review prior to that event, and that the review had concluded it was “not an ideal fit” within the portfolio.

Tiger Brands said in a stock market statement that the board had started formal due diligence on Nov. 6 after receiving “several indicative offers”. It will further evaluate its options once this is completed, it said.

The unit’s revenues slid 79% in the six months to end March, prompting an operating loss of 296 million rand ($20.05 million) as it struggled to get back up and running following the suspension of its operations. It reopened in December 2018.

The company said the prospective sale of the unit does not affect its commitment to the class action process currently underway.

It added that it had decided to close down its Deli Foods business in Nigeria following a review, as the business continued to incur losses despite efforts from management.

Operations ceased in October and all formalities relating to the closure would be completed in the next few months, it said.

($1 = 14.7634 rand)

Reporting by Emma Rumney; Editing by Jan Harvey

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