Canada Malting to join GrainCorp’s global malting spinoff

The Australian owner of Canada’s biggest malt company plans to spin it off, along with its other worldwide malting assets, into a new stand-alone malt industry player.

Sydney-based GrainCorp announced Thursday it plans to “demerge” its global malting business from its grains and edible oils business, forming two separate ASX-listed companies: MaltCo and “New GrainCorp.”

GrainCorp shareholders would get MaltCo shares proportionate to their stakes in GrainCorp if the company completes the demerger as expected by the end of calendar 2019.

GrainCorp said it expects annual savings of about $10 million by integrating New GrainCorp’s grains and edible oils businesses, cutting out duplication of costs and corporate functions, plus $10 million in “business simplification initiatives” coming out of the separation of MaltCo (all figures A$).

MaltCo, the company said, would be the world’s fourth largest independent maltster, operating malting houses in the U.S., Canada, Australia and the U.K., as well as Country Malt Group, the company’s North American craft malt distribution business.

MaltCo, GrainCorp said, would have the benefit of “high-quality, low-operating-cost processing assets strategically located in premium barley-growing regions.”

In Canada, those assets are under the purview of Calgary-based Canada Malting, which produces about 400,000 tonnes of malt per year.

The Canadian assets include malting plants at Calgary, Montreal and Thunder Bay, nine country elevators across the three Prairie provinces, and the Country Malt facilities at Delta, B.C., Didsbury, Alta. and Brampton, Ont.

Canada Malting’s history dates back to 1902, when it formed in the merger of three Ontario malting companies. GrainCorp in 2009 bought Canada Malting in a takeover of its then-parent, United Malt Holdings.

MaltCo, which in fiscal 2018 yielded EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) of $170 million, is to focus on “further developing its international portfolio.”

Specialty malt, whisky and craft beer markets “are experiencing substantial growth,” GrainCorp said Thursday, and MaltCo will have “sufficient balance sheet flexibility to support the capital investment required to capture these growth opportunities.”

‘Ongoing investment’

New GrainCorp, after the demerger, would be an “integrated global agribusiness with grain handling, storage, trading and processing operations in Australia, New Zealand, North America, Asia, Europe and Ukraine, focused on grains, oilseeds, pulses, edible oils and feeds.”

GrainCorp said New GrainCorp’s strategic focus will be on” building and developing its global grain and oilseeds origination network, including through ongoing investment in the GrainsConnect Canada supply chain and growth into new markets in the Black Sea and Indian subcontinent.”

Calgary-based grain handler GrainsConnect Canada — a joint venture between GrainCorp and Japan’s Zen-Noh Grain — on Tuesday opened its third Prairie grain terminal at Vegreville, Alta. and plans to open a fourth at Huxley, Alta. this fall.

In a separate joint venture, GrainsConnect and Winnipeg grain firm Parrish and Heimbecker are building Fraser Grain Terminal, a Vancouver export terminal expected to handle up to four million tonnes of grains, oilseeds, pulses and other commodities per year following its completion, expected next year.

New GrainCorp’s plan calls for GrainsConnect to “expand (its) origination footprint n Canada and enable (a) multi-origin service offering to customers in Asia and MENA,” referring to the Middle East and North Africa.

“Our portfolio review made clear that these businesses have different characteristics and would benefit from operating separately,” GrainCorp CEO Mark Palmquist, who in the demerger would become MaltCo’s new CEO, said Thursday in a release.

“A demerger would provide both MaltCo and New GrainCorp with increased flexibility to implement independent operating strategies and capital structures and allow them to attract investors with different investment priorities.”

Klaus Pamminger, now general manager of GrainCorp’s grains group, would become CEO of New GrainCorp following the demerger.

While the MaltCo demerger progresses, GrainCorp said, it “continues to engage actively with parties who have expressed an interest in acquiring part or parts of the GrainCorp portfolio.”

Specifically, GrainCorp said it has “engaged extensively” with Long-Term Asset Partners (LTAP), a Sydney-based asset management firm, about a possible takeover, but as of Thursday “has received no recent definitive update from LTAP.”

LTAP was set up in 2016 to pursue “long-term, patient investing in Australian agricultural assets and infrastructure.” In November 2018, by which time it owned a 4.2 per cent stake in GrainCorp, it made a “non-binding indicative proposal” to the grain firm, valued at $2.38 billion. — Glacier FarmMedia Network

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