Canada minister signals little concern on Viterra deal

Mon Mar 26, 2012 2:45pm EDT
 
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OTTAWA, March 26 - Canada's farm minister highlighted on Monday the global marketing reach of Swiss-based Glencore in the latest sign from Ottawa that it has little appetite for blocking the company's proposed takeover of grain handler Viterra.

Canada is one of the few countries that can help meet growing global demand for food, which is set to increase by 50 to 70 percent in coming decades, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz told reporters when asked to comment on the Glencore bid.

"It's going to take trade at the global level to make that happen. Certainly companies like Glencore have different avenues of marketing than Viterra has," he said on a conference call from South Korea, where he is on a trade mission.

Ritz said Viterra, the country's biggest grain handler, itself has operations in several countries and is "not simply a Canadian company either."

Glencore's C$6.1 billion ($6.2 billion) offer for Viterra must win approval from the federal government before it can go ahead. Under the country's foreign investment rules, the industry minister must determine whether the deal would produce a "net benefit" to Canada, according to a loosely defined set of criteria.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Sunday the structure of the deal meant it should not necessarily be seen as a normal foreign takeover bid. He said the interest in expanding the Canadian agriculture sector was "a good thing."

As part of its deal, Glencore plans to sell off some parts of Viterra to Canada's Richardson International and Agrium.

The Conservative government is eager to show it is open to business after it surprised investors in 2010 by blocking BHP Billiton's 2010 attempted takeover of Saskatchewan-based fertilizer producer Potash Corp.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, who was instrumental in opposing the sale of Potash, has also showed less concern about Viterra, which has its head office in the province, saying it was not a strategic resource.   Continued...

 
Canada's Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa December 8, 2011. REUTERS/Chris Wattie