Multiple entities reportedly interested in Glencore's agriculture unit

by World Grain Staff
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BAAR, SWITZERLAND — Multiple media outlets are reporting that Glencore has several entities interested in buying a stake in its agriculture unit.  Glencore is selling a minority stake in its agriculture unit to help reduce its current debt.

GIC, a sovereign wealth fund of Singapore, is among investors that have expressed interest in buying a stake as well as Mitsui & Co., CHS Inc. and at least one Canadian pension fund.

On Aug. 13, Glencore reported a 6% decrease in agricultural production. Its agriculture segment produced 4.5 million tonnes in the first half of 2015, compared with 4.8 million tonnes in the first half of 2014. Then, on Aug. 19, the company reported its overall earnings for the first half of 2015 were $882 million, or 7¢ per share, down 56% from $2.01 billion, or 15¢ per share.

“Against a challenging backdrop for many of our commodities, we have taken a range of pre-emptive actions in respect of our balance sheet, operations and capital spending/recycling in order to preserve our current credit rating and sustain our track record on equity distributions,” said Ivan Glasenberg, Glencore’s chief executive officer.

In early September, Glencore announced it was considering selling some of its agriculture sector in a move to reduce its $30 billion debt by $10 billion. In late September, Glencore hired Citigroup Inc. and Credit Suisse Group AG to sell a minority stake in its agriculture business.

Citigroup Inc. and Credit Suisse Group AG, said in an analyst note on Sept. 29 that the whole business could be worth as much as $10.5 billion.

As part of negotiations with potential buyers, the Swiss-based commodities trader is considering a plan that will carve out its agriculture business as a stand-alone company with its own capital structure, incorporating the unit in Singapore. Under the island state’s rules, commodity trading houses can benefit from tax rates as low as 5%, Bloomberg reported on Oct. 2.

GIC, formerly Government of Singapore Investment Corp., has made investments in food commodities in the past, at one point becoming the largest shareholder in Bunge Ltd., the U.S.-based food trader. Mitsui has investments in agriculture in Brazil, Japan and the U.S. Other Japanese traders such as Marubeni Corp. and Mitsubishi Corp. have already spent billions of dollars in the sector.

CHS told Reuters it is not actively looking, but is interested in buying a stake in Glencore’s agriculture sector for a realistic price.

Glencore expanded its presence in the agriculture industry with the purchase of Canadian grain trader Viterra, Inc. in 2012 for $4.6 billion.

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