June 23, 2008 / 5:29 PM / 9 years ago

Viterra CEO eyes growth in next six months

2 Min Read

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - Viterra Inc, Canada's largest grain handler, is scouting acquisitions of agricultural businesses with sales in the range of C$250 million to C$2.5 billion ($245 million-$2.45 billion), its chief executive said on Monday.

"From a timing perspective, it would be our hope within a six-month period that we would have opportunities that would gel, and we'd be able to execute on those," Mayo Schmidt told Reuters.

"Of course that timing is going to be affected by the will of the parties that we identify as potential partners," Schmidt said, adding the company saw opportunities within and outside of Canada.

Viterra, which began as a farmer-owned cooperative called Saskatchewan Wheat Pool in the 1920s, changed its name last year after a C$1.8-billion takeover of larger rival Agricore United.

The company raised C$441 million last month to help pay for acquisitions.

Viterra shares were up 3 Canadian cents at C$14.25 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Monday.

Schmidt said Viterra, which has about C$5.5 billion in sales, wasn't currently interested in biofuel plants, but could be keen on expanding or acquiring nitrogen manufacturing capacity at the right price.

"The areas we think about (for acquisitions) are businesses we're in today - businesses that we think we're the best in the world at running," Schmidt said. "We're not working on one project, we're working on multiple avenues."

Viterra handles about 45 percent of grain from the Canadian Prairies, one of the world's largest exporting regions for wheat, canola, barley and other crops.

It also controls about a third of the farm retail sales market for products such as fertilizer, chemicals and seed, and has smaller oat, malt and livestock feed processing businesses.

($1=$1.02 Canadian)

Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Bernadette Baum

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