Marubeni buys Gavilon for $3.6 billion as it eyes China

Tue May 29, 2012 7:21am EDT
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By Yuko Inoue and Emi Emoto

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese trading house Marubeni Corp is to buy U.S. grains merchant Gavilon for $3.6 billion, the company said on Tuesday, as it targets China's growing demand for corn from North America, the world's top grain export hub.

China's corn purchases are expected to surpass Japan's annual imports of about 16 million metric tons (17. 6 million tons), the world's largest, within as little as three years, analysts say. China is already the world's top importer of soybeans.

"It's a move to complete a grains-supply chain of elevators, export terminals, freight handling and an end-user market, and the target is the growing market of China," said Akio Shibata, president of the Natural Resource Research Institute in Tokyo.

The U.S. grain trader has about $2 billion in debt, Marubeni said, which would take the total value of the transaction to $5.6 billion. The acquisition would be partly financed by bank borrowing, the Japanese firm added.

The announcement confirmed an earlier Reuters report.

It is the largest overseas acquisition, including debt, in agriculture or energy by a Japanese company since Japan Tobacco bought British cigarette manufacturer Gallaher Group for almost $19 billion in 2006, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Marubeni, Japan's fifth-largest trading company, had been in advanced talks to buy Gavilon since early May. Gavilon is the largest transaction in Marubeni's history, the company said.

Marubeni expects its global grain handling to rise to 55 million metric tons in the year to March 2013, when it adds Gavilon's 30 million metric tons to its business, coming closer in size to global grain giants like Cargill, Daisuke Okada, an adviser on food products to Marubeni President Teruo Asada, said at a briefing in Tokyo.   Continued...

A man passes a logo of Japanese trading house Marubeni Corp outside its company headquarters in Tokyo May 29, 2012. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao