Swift announced last week it had hired the investment bank J.P. Morgan to facilitate its sale or offer an initial public offering. Smithfield previously indicated it would be very interested in the beef plants, but Tyson and National Beef have expressed interest, as well.

Cynics would suggest that Tyson and National Beef merely want to make sure the plants bring fair market value. It would not be surprising, however, to see the Australian plants, the pork plants and beef plants sold separately.

Single packing plants could fit into certain processors' strategic plans extremely well. Thus, we could see the different meat plants go to different buyers.

Most analysts are anticipating that an initial public offering/equity drive is the least likely of the outcomes, but such a move may give Swift some leverage in pricing its assets. It is amazing to ponder, however, that IBP, National Beef and ConAgra/Swift could all be under new ownership in a relatively short period of time.
-- Troy Marshall