November 28, 2018 / 11:10 AM / 12 days ago

Exclusive: Biosev hires bank for possible Brazil sugar asset sales - source

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Biosev SA (BSEV3.SA), the sugar and ethanol maker controlled by trading firm Louis Dreyfus Co, has hired an investment bank to seek potential buyers for some or all of its plants in Brazil, a source familiar with the plans told Reuters.

Biosev has retained the local unit of Dutch bank Rabobank to explore opportunities for its nine production units in Brazil’s center-south region, the country’s main sugar producing region, the source told Reuters.

Weeks earlier the company sold the two mills it owned in Brazil’s Northeast, a less important sugar producing region, for a combined 273.6 million reais ($70.33 million).

“They are open to selling anything, depending on the proposal,” the source said, who asked not to be named because he is involved in some of the discussions with potential buyers and those negotiations include confidentiality agreements.

The source declined to name potential bidders but said that interested parties included investment funds, foreign companies and some local firms.

A Biosev spokesperson, asked about the potential asset sales and the possibility it could completely exit the sector, said the company would not comment on “market rumors.”

But a Dreyfus executive speaking on condition of anonymity told Reuters that at the right price, deals could be done.

“We are a company that buys and sells commodities, and that goes for our asset portfolio as well. If an interesting offer comes around, we could have a deal”, he said.

A Rabobank spokeswoman told Reuters the bank would not comment, citing “confidentiality issues.”

Biosev, with debt of nearly 6 billion reais ($1.54 billion), faces the same financial difficulties that confront its Brazilian rivals after years of low sugar and ethanol prices.

Earlier this year, Louis Dreyfus injected $1 billion into the company while Biosev clinched a deal with a group of banks to extend maturities in some of its debt. In June, Biosev named a new chief executive.

A second source, an adviser to investors eyeing opportunities in Brazil’s agricultural sector, said Biosev had hired an unidentified bank to explore the sale of the Santa Elisa mill, one of the largest sugar companies in Brazil, with capacity to crush 6.1 million tonnes of cane per crop.

Santa Elisa, founded in the 1930’s by the Biagi family, one of the country’s best known sugar dynasties, is the second largest unit owned by Biosev. The largest is the Vale do Rosário mill, with capacity to crush 6.5 million tonnes per year, which the first source said could also be sold. Dreyfus bought control of the two plants in 2009.

Besides the Santa Elisa and Vale do Rosário plants, Biosev has three other mills in Sao Paulo state, the main cane region in Brasil. It also operates plants in Mato Grosso do Sul and Minas Gerais states. The company has a sugar port terminal in Guarujá.

It is the second-largest cane processor in Brazil, behind Raízen, a venture of Cosan SA Indústria e Comércio (CSAN3.SA) and Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSa.AS).

After the $1 billion capital injection, Dreyfus holds more than 90 percent of Biosev’s shares.

Reporting by Marcelo Teixeira; Editing by Christian Plumb

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