Olymel to buy one of Canada's biggest hog farms

Wed Jan 9, 2013 2:40pm EST
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* Hog farms stressed by high feed costs

* Big Sky, Puratone see new ownership

WINNIPEG, Manitoba Jan 9 (Reuters) - Privately held pork processor Olymel LP will buy one of Canada's largest hog farms out of receivership, after no superior bids emerged.

Olymel will pay C$65.25 million ($65.91 million) for Big Sky Farms, which is based in Humboldt, Saskatchewan, in a deal that will likely close by the end of January, said the receiver, Ernst & Young senior vice-president Kevin Brennan, on Wednesday.

Olymel made the offer in October, kicking off a sales process that would have led to an auction if there had been a higher bid. The Montreal-based company currently does not raise hogs, but operates a large hog-slaughter plant at Red Deer, Alberta.

Big Sky entered receivership in early September after piling up C$69 million in debt to secured creditors.

Soaring feed costs left the company, and many other hog farms in North America, unable to pay their bills.

A severe drought in the United States decimated crops last year, which led to higher costs for grains used to feed pigs.

Canada is the world's third-largest pork exporter.

Manitoba-based hog producer Puratone Corporation entered court protection from creditors last year, and was purchased by pork processor Maple Leaf Foods. Another large Canadian hog farm, Manitoba-based HyLife, sold a minority stake in the company to Japanese customer Itochu Corp this week.