Chicken producer Sanderson Farms nears $4.5 billion sale

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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
SAFM,
+0.59%
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.
WMT,
-0.18%
 and Albertsons Cos.
ACI,
+6.09%
as well as restaurant distributors like Sysco Corp.
SYY,
+0.54%
 and U.S. Foods Holding Corp. 
USFD,
+1.58%.
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.
TSN,
+1.40%
 leads the industry with about one-fifth of the market, while Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. 
PPC,
+1.29%
 represents about 16% of the national total. An expanded version of this report appears on WSJ.com. Also popular on WSJ.com: When Amazon customers leave negative reviews, some sellers hunt them down. Companies thought they had plans for fall. Now they are scrapping them.



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