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Worst Beef Bet JBS Set to Beat Peers After M&A: Corporate Brazil

JBS-SA rallies, thanks to cheap Brazilian cattle.

JBS-SA, the worst-performing stock among meat companies in the Americas this year, is now forecast to post the biggest rally as the maker of Swift steaks says cheap Brazilian cattle will drive profit growth and reduce debt.

Shares in the supplier of restaurant chains from McDonald’s to Outback will gain 42% in the next 12 months, the most among beef producers worldwide, according to the average of 17 price estimates tracked by Bloomberg. The stock has lost investors 13% this year compared with Tyson Food’s 3.7% decline, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“Beef margins in Brazil will keep rising going forward,” says JBS Chief Executive Officer Wesley Batista. “Add to that the outlook of lower grain prices, which will help Pilgrim’s Pride, and you have a good year ahead.”

Batista, whose father Jose founded JBS in 1953 by opening a slaughterhouse, expects to lower the company’s ratio of net debt to earnings before items to “the low 2s” by 2014 from 3.7 at the end of the third quarter by containing costs and widening profit margins. JBS will benefit as expanding herds in Brazil reduce cattle prices, while in the U.S. it can pass on higher U.S. chicken and cattle prices to customers, he says.

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