Florida probes Tyson Foods, Pilgrim's Pride on chicken pricing

Tue May 9, 2017 4:14pm EDT
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By Tom Polansek

(Reuters) - Top U.S. chicken companies Tyson Foods Inc (TSN.N: Quote) and Pilgrim's Pride Corp (PPC.O: Quote) said on Monday that Florida's attorney general sought information from them regarding a probe into possible anticompetitive behavior, widening a legal review into chicken pricing.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi's office has opened an investigation into allegations made in civil lawsuits, filed last year in federal court in Chicago, that Tyson and other chicken processors conspired to fix prices, Tyson spokesman Gary Mickelson said.

Shares of Tyson, the No. 1 U.S. meat processor, fell 6 percent to $59.48 after it reported a slump in quarterly profits. It also disclosed that Bondi's office had requested information from the company through a "civil investigative demand."

"We continue to believe the antitrust claims that prompted the Florida AG to open this investigation are without merit but we are cooperating with the Florida AG’s investigation," Mickelson said.

Pilgrim's Pride, mostly owned by Brazilian meatpacker JBS SA (JBSS3.SA: Quote), also received "an inquiry from Florida AG, similar to other chicken companies," spokesman Cameron Bruett said.

Pilgrim's Pride shares dropped 1.2 percent to $24.75.

Kylie Mason, Bondi's press secretary, declined to comment, citing an active investigation.

The U.S. chicken sector, which is dominated by a few large companies, has come under increased scrutiny over the past year as customers and farmers alleged antitrust violations relating to pricing, production and compensation.   Continued...

FILE PHOTO: Fog shrouds the Tyson slaughterhouse in Burbank, Washington December 26, 2013.    REUTERS/Ross Courtney/File Photo