U.S. holding company offers to buy grain handler Andersons

The Andersons’ ethanol plant at Denison, Iowa. (AndersonsEthanol.com)

Reuters — HC2 Holdings Inc., a company run by former hedge fund manager Philip Falcone, said on Tuesday it has made a bid to buy U.S. grain handler Andersons Inc for about US$1 billion in cash.

Andersons is not looking to be acquired, the company’s new CEO told Reuters a day earlier.

“As a public company, we like where we’re at,” Patrick Bowe said in an interview. A spokeswoman for Andersons did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

HC2’s offer of $37 per share represents a 42 per cent premium to Andersons’ closing price on Tuesday (all figures US$). HC2, a diversified holding company, said it would also assume $402 million of Andersons’ debt.

Analysts have long considered the company, which has a market value of about $748 million, to be a prime takeover target in the farm sector because of its medium size and diversified assets, including grain storage facilities and rail cars.

HC2 has repeatedly expressed interest in a “negotiated transaction” to Andersons’ board since January, HC2 said in a letter to the agribusiness.

At a meeting last month, Andersons said HC2’s offer was too low without giving any “indication of an acceptable price or a justification for a higher price,” according to the letter.

Andersons has been “poorly managed,” HC2 said, citing weak earnings and a $100 million budget for a new corporate headquarters.

Bowe, 57, became Andersons’ CEO and president in November after a career at global commodities trader Cargill Inc .

Under the previous CEO, Andersons began building a new 138,000 square-foot headquarters near its current home base in Maumee, Ohio, which it leases.

Jim Burmeister, treasurer of Andersons, declined to reveal the cost of the new headquarters to Reuters on Monday.

HC2, which holds a stake in Andersons, said as an alternative to acquiring the entire company it was willing to buy the company’s grain and rail businesses for $950 million. In addition, it would also make stalking horse bids for each of the company’s remaining assets, HC2 said.

A “stalking horse” bid is used as a starting bid or minimally accepted offer that other interested bidders must surpass if they want to buy the company.

Reporting for Reuters by Tom Polansek in Chicago and Vishaka George in Bangalore.

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