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China's COFCO to acquire 51% of agri-firm Noble
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) April 02, 2014


China's state-owned grain giant COFCO is to take a majority stake in the agricultural commodities subsidiary of Hong Kong-based Noble Group, the firms said Wednesday, in its latest global acquisition.

Noble Agri will become a joint venture between the two, with a consortium of international investors taking part in the all-cash deal alongside COFCO.

The exact purchase price was not divulged but a joint statement said Noble Agri had shareholder equity of $2.8 billion and net debt of $2.5 billion as of the end of last year, and the deal would be valued at 1.15 times 2014 book value.

It comes after COFCO announced a deal in late February to buy 51 percent of Netherlands-based Nidera, a trader of grains and soybeans among other agricultural commodities and active in Brazil and Argentina.

Wednesday's announcement is the latest in a string of major overseas investments by Chinese companies seeking to meet rising demand for food and energy in the world's second-largest economy.

Such deals have been seen potentially giving China greater control over pricing on the world's grain markets as well as better access to major grain-growing regions.

"We are committed to the continued growth and success of Noble Agri Ltd and the new shareholders of Noble Agri share the vision and passion to build a leading global agricultural firm," Yusuf Alireza, Noble Group's chief executive officer, said in the statement.

The deal will need to be approved by regulators and shareholders.

Financial terms of the COFCO-Nidera deal, which also awaits regulatory approval, were not disclosed while that press release described Nidera as having "annual turnover in excess of $17 billion".

China's overseas investment rose 16.8 percent to $90.17 billion in 2013 as its companies bought more foreign assets, particularly in energy and resources, to power its economy.

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