September 13, 2017 / 5:28 PM / a year ago

China's COFCO targets overseas grain partners after Growmark deal

PARIS (Reuters) - China’s COFCO International said it plans more partnerships in grain after a U.S. supply deal last month, as it expands overseas with a focus on grain, oilseed and sugar.

The state-owned trading house has spent more than $3 billion buying agricultural traders Nidera and Noble Agri and has embarked on an overhaul of its newly acquired operations, notably in Europe and South America.

“Following the successful integration of Nidera and Noble Agri into COFCO International and the establishment of a high-performing HQ in Geneva, we are launching a new chapter in COFCO International’s development,” its CEO Johnny Chi said.

“We plan to advance a strategy focused on strengthening our core businesses of grains, oilseeds and sugar with a geographical focus on the Americas, Europe and Australia,” Chi said in a statement emailed to Reuters.

COFCO last month unveiled a partnership with U.S. farm cooperative Growmark to own and operate a grain terminal COFCO inherited from Nidera on the Mississippi River.

“COFCO International plans to establish several new international partnerships and is open to working together with all stakeholders in the supply chain,” Chi said.

Buying Nidera and Noble Agri thrust COFCO into the league of multinational agricultural traders but integrating the two firms has raised uncertainty over its short-term prospects.

Zhao Shuanglian, chairman of parent company COFCO Corporation [CNCOF.UL], was quoted as saying the “highly-performing” South American grain, oilseed and sugar portfolio would play “a major role” in COFCO International’s expansion.

COFCO International’s Brazilian activities have undergone a series of changes, a reorganization that sources have partly attributed to an accounting hole found in Nidera’s Latin American operations.

Sources also said last month that the group is considering selling Nidera’s Latin American seed business.

A COFCO International spokesman declined to comment about a possible sale process.

Reporting by Gus Trompiz; editing by Alexander Smith

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