Latest News

Cofco Explores US Deals.

images (10)Chinese food company Cofco Corp. is on a determined shopping spree.In a few short years, Cofco has spent a couple billion dollars quietly buying up Australian cane fields, French vineyards and soybean pastures in Brazil, helping it become one of the world’s largest food companies. Now, Cofco is exploring deals in the world’s biggest exporter of agricultural commodities: the U.S.
Little known globally but pervasive in China, Cofco is bulking up to become the Chinese answer to U.S. grain and meat giant Cargill Inc.Once the government arm for importing food staples when China was poor and isolated, the state-run company rode the country’s rise to a nation with middle-class consumers. Cofco—the officially adopted abbreviation of China National Cereals, Oils and Foodstuffs Corp.—now owns food-producing assets on five continents. Last year, it spent $2.7 billion to acquire Dutch grain trader Nidera BV and 51% of Noble Group’s agriculture unit, gaining footholds in the breadbasket regions of South America and central Europe.“We want to get more involved in other parts of the world, especially in the Americas, where a lot of the grain is grown, shipped and exported to other markets like China,” said Paul Liu, Cofco’s head of North America.
The deals with Nidera and Noble Agri Ltd. gave Cofco a handful of grain elevators in Chicago and Milwaukee, and Mr. Liu said the company has begun sounding out U.S. companies on potential deals that could expand its U.S. presence. Such transactions could include acquisitions or partnerships with rivals to secure U.S. ports and grain terminals, giving Cofco better access to the world’s largest source of corn and a top soybean grower, Mr. Liu said.“They’ve shown that they can run a company in Australia at its finest,” said Bryce Macdonald, a cane farmer and Tully’s deputy mayor. “There’s nothing to stop them now from buying and running all sorts of other companies.”Cofco beat back appeals from local growers—backed by Bunge—to keep Tully Sugar in Australian hands. Since then, the cane farmers who supply the mill and local officials say Cofco has managed with a light touch.