CBH outbid on maltings assets

Brad ThompsonThe West Australian

Global agribusiness giant Cargill has trumped CBH in a high-stakes bidding war for Australia's biggest malting company and its strategic WA assets.

It is understood CBH was second in the race for Joe White Maltings but its bid fell well short of Cargill's $420 million offer to Glencore.

Industry sources said Cargill had paid a premium for JWM, which has plants in six States positioned close to ports and transport links to premium barley growing areas.

The JWM facilities in WA are by far the biggest and best, and the Forrestfield plant adjoins the CBH Metro Grains Centre with rail access to Fremantle Port and the Kwinana grain terminal.

Cargill, already the world's third- biggest malting company, with plants in the US, Europe and South America, expects to complete the deal before the end of the year.

The deal highlights the growing interest in Australian agricultural assets from the world's biggest agribusinesses and Asia.

In addition to WA's grower-owned co-operative, the unsuccessful bidders for JWM were Malteurop, Japanese heavyweight Sumitomo and Hong Kong-based CK Life Sciences, which is owned by Asia's richest man, Li Ka-shing.

Archer Daniel Midland has made a $3.4 billion bid for Australian-owned GrainCorp, New York Stock Exchange-listed Bunge is building grain loading facilities at Bunbury and a Chinese conglomerate is investing in farms and port facilities at Albany.

Cargill is the only big fish active in the Australian grains industry without significant port infrastructure.

A spokesman said the company had no immediate plans to invest in port infrastructure but was determined to make sure it had fair access to existing grain loading terminals.

Cargill said the Forrestfield plant and WA barley growers were central to its plans to expand the JWM business in Asian markets.

The malt produced at the Forrestfield plant is transferred to the CBH site next door and loaded on to rail for export in containers.

CBH chief executive Andy Crane was overseas and unavailable for comment but in a statement the co-operative said it "looked forward" to building on long-standing relationships with Cargill and JWM.

Glencore acquired JWM as part of its $6.1 billion takeover of Viterra. The malting business has made annual profits of about $30 million over the past five years.

It has a host of prestigious brewers among its clients and Australia-wide produces 520,000 tonnes a year for brewers across Asia and the Pacific as well as the local market.

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