Smithfield Foods going public?

Published 6:22 pm Friday, October 20, 2023

After a decade of Chinese ownership, Smithfield Foods may again go public in the United States.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Oct. 19 that the Smithfield-based company is working with banks to potentially list its stock shares as early as next year, citing unnamed sources “familiar with the matter.”

Jim Monroe, Smithfield’s vice president of corporate affairs, described the Journal as “speculating on the possibility” and would not confirm whether a public U.S. stock listing of the world’s largest pork producer is imminent.

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“A U.S. public offering is something we regularly evaluate,” Monroe said. “We have no definitive plan or timetable.”

Hong Kong-based WH Group purchased Smithfield in 2013 for $4.7 billion. According to Monroe, the company’s annual revenue has grown over the decade from $13 billion at the time of the sale to $19 billion in 2022. The company employs nearly 40,000 people across the U.S., and 3,000 locally between its headquarters and the meatpacking plant in town.

WH Group is already a publicly traded company with investors from around the world, including the United States, Monroe told The Smithfield Times in April following the passage of a new state law aimed at barring “foreign adversaries” from owning Virginia farmland. The law, Monroe said, should have no impact on the company as “we are not owned or controlled by a foreign government.”

A Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services report from July, however, identified Smithfield Foods subsidiary Murphy Brown LLC as accounting for 96% of the state’s 13,890 acres of Chinese-held land. The company disputed the state’s numbers, contending it owns less than 4,000 acres statewide.