UPDATE 1-Marubeni expects Chinese approval for Gavilon deal by end-March
* The $5.6 bln deal has been delayed by regulatory reviews
* Marubeni would be well-positioned to sell grains to China
* Marubeni on track to meet annual profit goal of Y200 bln
By Osamu Tsukimori
TOKYO, Feb 1 (Reuters) - Japanese trading house Marubeni Corp said it expects to get Chinese regulatory approval for its long-delayed $5.6 billion purchase of U.S. grain merchant Gavilon by the end of March.
The transaction, which has received clearance from U.S. and European anti-competition authorities, needs Chinese approval because Marubeni will increase supplies of grains to the world's most populous country through the purchase.
"As of today, there have been several inquiries from the Chinese authorities and we are providing responses," Marubeni's Chief Financial Officer Yukihiko Matsumura said on Friday at an earnings briefing.
"I hope that the approval will be given in the not so distant future."
The Gavilon deal, which includes debt of around $2 billion, would catapult Marubeni, Japan's fifth-biggest trading house, into the top ranks of global grain merchants and put it in a prime position to meet rising demand for grains from China.
The deal had been originally scheduled to close in September but was then pushed back to around end-November/early December before suffering more delays due to regulatory reviews.
Teruo Asada, president of Marubeni, in November denied media speculation that tension between Japan and China over disputed islands in the East China Sea had delayed Chinese approval.
Marubeni expects to meet its forecast for net profit of 200 billion yen ($2.2 billion) for the year to March 31.
Net profit for the nine months through December climbed 7.9 percent to 152.5 billion yen, helped by increased equity in earnings of affiliates in its copper business in Chile, gains in investment securities and favourable foreign exchage rates.
Total trading transactions volume for the nine-month period edged up 0.6 percent to 7.7 trillion yen on increases in transactions for grains, oil and liquefied natural gas.