Sweetened $3b offer wins over GrainCorp

Shareholders, not grain growers, were the reason GrainCorp accepted a $3 billion takeover offer by US commodity giant Archer Daniels Midland, said Alison Watkins, the chief executive of the Australian agribusiness major.

Shareholders, not grain growers, were the reason GrainCorp accepted a $3 billion takeover offer by US commodity giant Archer Daniels Midland, said Alison Watkins, the chief executive of the Australian agribusiness major.

The offer, which will mean shareholders receive $12.20 per share plus a $1 dividend, is the latest in a series of sweetened bids by ADM since it first approached the company in October last year.

The move, if successful, will give ADM control over GrainCorp's valuable grain exporting assets, in particular seven of the eight ports that ship grain in bulk from Australia's east coast, and turn the company - which started life as the NSW government's Grain Elevators Board in 1916 - into a branch of a multibillion-dollar global commodity house with its headquarters in Illinois.

Ms Watkins said the company's focus had "very much been on shareholders, and getting to a good outcome for shareholders".

She said it was likely to be "business as usual" for the company if the takeover goes ahead, but admitted she had had little direct contact with ADM.

"We certainly haven't discussed their intentions," she added.

But Jon Slee, chairman of the Grain Industry Association of Western Australia, said local growers would be concerned about the future of GrainCorp's smaller divisions. "There's a risk that they shut down smaller local processing arms, as they shift away from Australian processing and become more focused on large volume commodity trading," he said.

He said growers would like to see ADM invest in storage and handling infrastructure, as well as processing plants, in Australia.

"That's where ADM have got expertise," he said.

About half of Australia's wheat production comes from the west.

The announcement of the takeover offer resulted in GrainCorp's share price jumping 7.9 per cent to $12.81 - its highest since the company listed on the stock exchange in 1998.

ADM's chief executive Patricia Woertz said in a statement that the group, which converts corn, wheat and other crops into food, feed, fuel and industrial products, was "pleased to have reached agreement with GrainCorp to conduct due diligence and, subject to that due diligence, put a recommended offer before GrainCorp's shareholders".

Analysts said the most valuable asset to ADM was control of Australia's main grain handling ports, which would allow the company to export to Asia but particularly the Middle East.

"They've got 15 per cent shareholding in Wilmar, a commodities group, and some heavy assets in Asia," PhillipCapital analyst Paul Jensz said. "So what Australia does is add some premium grain and barley and canola abilities."

Graincorp chairman Don Taylor said moving towards a global, price-driven market could be a boon for growers.

"ADM is a big company and offers potential access to the global networks that complement our own," he said. "Their $3 billion-plus investment will be a real vote of confidence for Australian growers and Australian agriculture."

He said the conditions of the takeover were favourable for the business to run as usual.

"I have absolute confidence that growers will see enhanced service if anything else in the immediate future."

ADM bought a 19.85 per cent stake in GrainCorp last year.

Related Articles