ADM spices up bid for GrainCorp

Faced with deep-seated resistance to its planned $3.4 billion takeover of GrainCorp, US grains trader Archer Daniels Midland has upped the ante.

Faced with deep-seated resistance to its planned $3.4 billion takeover of GrainCorp, US grains trader Archer Daniels Midland has upped the ante.

It has put forward some additional measures to overcome the opposition as it waits to see if the government will allow it or not.

ADM is offering $12.20 in cash for each GrainCorp share, as well as allowing up to $1 in dividends to be paid to shareholders.

Treasurer Joe Hockey is to decide by December 17 whether to block the bid on national interest grounds.

On Wednesday, ADM said it would commit itself to spending a further $200 million on agriculture infrastructure, with a focus on upgrades to the railway network, implement price caps on handling charges at silos and ports, and ensure open access to the grain handling and port facilities.

"It's a bit of a sugar coating, really," a spokeswoman for the New South Wales Farmers Federation said of ADM's sweetened terms. "We don't see that these moves will create a level playing field for the other marketers."

ADM said the spending was in addition to an earlier commitment to spend $50 million on infrastructure, which is on top of GrainCorp's planned spending here of $250 million, taking to $500 million the total spending planned on the rail network.

ADM also said it would establish an advisory board with representatives from NSW, Victoria and Queensland, as well as hold regular public grower consultations.

"We have had substantive discussions with growers, policymakers and other stakeholders, and we've been committed to finding common ground and developing solutions that address issues and opportunities that have been raised," ADM Grain's president, Ian Pinner, said.

"Taking into account the feedback we received, we are committing to a further package of investments and initiatives."

ADM's original bid for GrainCorp was rejected by the target, with a sweetened offer finally winning board support.

But farm lobby groups remain wary of the bid, concerned about access to its grain receivals and handling network, both up-country and at ports, even though much of this network is subject to government controls.

The proposed price cap is to limit price rises to the rate of inflation for the first three years. ADM also said it would maintain a local grain marketing team, while maintaining GrainCorp's head office in Sydney.

News of the upgraded measures pushed up GrainCorp shares to close at $1.33, up 15ยข.

The shares weakened after the release in mid-November of its year-to-September earnings, amid concern about the forecast of a profit fall on the expected decline in the grains crop in the year ahead.

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