Not much interest in Glencore ag assets at grain firm G3

G3 CEO Karl Gerrand, shown here in April in Winnipeg, said the company isn’t particularly interested in making a move on Glencore’s Viterra assets. (Dave Bedard photo)

Winnipeg | Reuters –– Grain handler G3 Canada, a joint venture between a Saudi Arabian firm and Bunge Ltd., doesn’t have much interest in bidding for a stake in rival Glencore’s agricultural business, its chief executive said Tuesday.

Swiss-based Glencore, the trader and miner whose shares have been battered by the commodities slump, is looking to sell a stake in its global grains business to cut about a third of its US$30 billion in debt and regain investor trust. It has held talks with a Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund and China’s state-backed grain trader COFCO, along with Canadian pension funds, Reuters has reported.

“I don’t really know what it is that Glencore is hoping to do, or whether or not they would even consider an existing competitor in the Canadian market as a viable suitor for the pieces they’re trying to sell off,” G3 CEO Karl Gerrand told Reuters in an interview.

Glencore’s agricultural assets include Viterra, one of Canada’s largest grain handlers.

“Should there be something of interest to us that would make sense, we would certainly look at it, but at this point I’m not really seeing that there is much there that would be of interest to us,” Gerrand said.

Gerrand declined to comment on whether G3 has had discussions with Glencore.

Investor group G3 Global Grain Group, a joint venture of U.S.-based oilseed processor Bunge and Saudi Agricultural and Livestock Investment Co. (SALIC), closed its deal in July for a controlling stake in the former Canadian Wheat Board and renamed the company G3.

It is not clear which Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund may have interest in Glencore, but it would not work for SALIC to be a partner in both G3 and Viterra simultaneously, Gerrand said.

U.S. farm co-operative and grains trader CHS Inc. said last month it would be interested in Glencore’s Canadian grain handling assets at a discounted price.

G3 also said Tuesday it had begun construction of a port grain terminal with 50,000 tonnes of storage at Hamilton, Ont., to be ready for 2017.

The company is also studying a possible grain terminal at Port Metro Vancouver and looking to buy or build eight to 10 country elevators in Alberta and Saskatchewan to collect grain, Gerrand said.

“It’s always better if we can buy versus build, so we’re keeping our ears to the ground” for opportunities, Gerrand said.

Rod Nickel is a Reuters correspondent covering the agriculture and mining sectors from Winnipeg.

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