Glencore in talks to sell further stake in ag unit

London | Reuters — Commodity trader and miner Glencore is in talks to sell a further 9.9 per cent stake in its agricultural unit, negotiating with bidders that missed out on the 40 per cent sold to the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB), two sources with knowledge of the matter said.

Glencore, whose ag unit includes Canada’s top grain handler, Regina-based Viterra, declined to comment.

Bidders include a different Canadian pension fund, state-backed Saudi Agricultural and Livestock Investment Co. (SALIC) and Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund, the sources said.

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SALIC — which already owns a stake in Canadian grain handler G3 Canada, the former Canadian Wheat Board — and Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund were not immediately available to comment.

Last month, CPPIB agreed to buy a 40 per cent stake in the unit for $2.5 billion, placing the equity value of the business at $6.25 billion (all figures US$). Including inventories and debt, the unit is valued at closer to $10 billion.

The 9.9 per cent stake is valued at around $625 million.

Glencore had been aiming to close the deals at the same time in the second half of 2016, the sources said.

“Negotiations are ongoing… people who lost out are still trying to get on board, but Glencore will struggle to get more money for it,” one said.

The London-listed company announced its intention to sell a minority stake in its agricultural unit in September, after shareholder pressure to see it cut debt prompted a slew of measures including asset sales, reducing capital expenditure, suspending dividend payments and raising $2.5 billion of new equity capital.

The group said it aimed to cut net debt to between $17 billion and $18 billion by the end of 2016, down from a peak of $30 billion last year.

One sticking point to the deal is whether the smaller stake holder will have voting rights, as CPPIB does, the sources said.

The agriculture business allows Glencore to trade grains, oilseeds, rice, sugar and cotton.

It generated core earnings of $524 million in 2015 and had gross assets of more than $10 billion.

Reporting for Reuters by Clara Denina and Sarah McFarlane in London, England.

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