March 13, 2017 / 3:23 PM / 3 years ago

UPDATE 1-Switzerland's ECOM buys insolvent German cocoa grinder Euromar

(Adds detail from paragraph three)

HAMBURG, March 13 (Reuters) - Swiss commodities trading group ECOM has agreed to buy the factory of German cocoa grinder Euromar Commodities GmbH which declared insolvency in December, Euromar’s insolvency administrator said on Monday.

ECOM plans to resume production at Euromar’s plant at Fehrbellin near Berlin, insolvency administrator Rolf Rattunde said in a statement.

No one was available for comment at ECOM’s Swiss head office.

Rattunde said a sale contract for Euromar’s factory, equipment and site has been signed with ECOM and approved by Euromar’s interim committee of creditors. German cartel authorities must still approve the purchase.

Some 25 groups had expressed interest in Euromar and four had been involved in the final round of negotiations, he said. Observers said last week a sale was thought to be imminent.

Euromar had suffered liquidity problems caused by exchange rate fluctuations in the British pound, in which cocoa is traded, and swings in cocoa prices.

A U.S. associate company, Transmar Commodity Group Ltd, also filed for bankruptcy protection in December.

ECOM is a supplier of commodities to chocolate manufacturers, coffee roasters and cotton mills, the company’s website says, with cocoa trading operations and cocoa processing plants in the Netherlands, Malaysia and Mexico.

“After completion of the purchasing contract of the assets and with new equipment purchases, ECOM will realign the factory and resume production,” Rattunde said.

The factory grinds cocoa to produce cocoa butter and powder, ingredients for chocolate and confectionery. It has been undertaking “emergency production” since December, Rattunde said.

It is expected that Euromar’s 125 personnel will be taken on by ECOM.

“I am confident the last hurdles in the sale will be crossed,” Rattunde said.

German traders estimate the Euromar grinding plant in Fehrbellin can crush 150 tonnes of cocoa beans a day, which with full 365-day production means around 54,700 tonnes a year. Germany grinds about 400,000 tonnes of cocoa annually.

Euromar’s problems were a factor in a sudden fall in European cocoa grindings in the fourth quarter of 2016. Euromar has never given official production figures. (Reporting by Michael Hogan; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)

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