Suitor quits $1.7 billion bid for Australia's GrainCorp, shares tumble

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia’s largest-listed grain handler, GrainCorp Ltd, said that suitor Long-Term Asset Partners (LTAP) has withdrawn its A$2.4 billion ($1.7 billion) takeover bid after due diligence, pushing shares to five-month lows.

FILE PHOTO: A silo bearing the logo of GrainCorp Ltd is seen in the Tasmanian town of Devonport, Australia, November 17, 2016. REUTERS/Clyde Russell/File Photo

GrainCorp stock dropped 11 percent at the open of trade on Tuesday to hit close to where it stood preceding the bid, before recouping some of those losses to trade at A$8.18. The broader market opened half a percentage point higher.

The little-known asset manager had made an offer of A$10.42 per share in December 2018, as drought wilted crops across Australia’s east coast and limited GrainCorp’s ability to earn revenue from international grain trading.

“Had due diligence supported our operational assumptions, we are confident we would have turned the LTAP proposal into a binding offer as contemplated,” LTAP Chairman Tony Shepherd said in a separate release late on Monday.

Investor attention will now turn to the current growing season, which is predicted to be poor, said Belinda Moore, an analyst at Brisbane stockbroker Morgans.

“LTAP’s withdrawal raises concerns about the due diligence process and GNC’s outlook,” she wrote in a note to clients.

“Before LTAP’s proposal, GNC’s share price was A$7.30. Since this time, its outlook has deteriorated further and the company now looks likely to report a loss in FY20”

Lack of information on the offer had held back GrainCorp from recommending the deal to its shareholders in December.

GrainCorp is in the process of splitting the company into two businesses, with plans to spin off and list its global malting unit and restructuring its grain business.

Last month, the Sydney-based grain handler had said it was engaging with suitors vying for parts or all of the company, including LTAP.

The Australian government had blocked a A$2.8 billion takeover of GrainCorp by U.S. agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland Co in 2013 following pressure from grain growers.

Reporting by Tom Westbrook in SYDNEY and Aditya Soni in BENGALURU; Editing by Christian Schmollinger and Joseph Radford