Glencore sale of Viterra farm outlets to Agrium wins Canadian regulatory nod

Thu Sep 5, 2013 6:06pm EDT

The logo of commodities trader Glencore is pictured in front of the company's headquarters in the Swiss town of Baar November 20, 2012. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

The logo of commodities trader Glencore is pictured in front of the company's headquarters in the Swiss town of Baar November 20, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Arnd Wiegmann

(Reuters) - Canadian regulators have approved Glencore Xstrata PLC's (GLEN.L) sale of some Viterra farm retail stores to Canadian fertilizer company Agrium Inc (AGU.TO) in a deal that will make Agrium the dominant farm retailer in Canada.

Agrium, already the biggest U.S. retail seller of fertilizer, chemicals and seed, will get 210 stores across Western Canada from Glencore in the deal approved by Canada's Competition Bureau, Agrium said on Thursday.

Agrium Chief Executive Mike Wilson said he expects the company's "highly attractive" purchase to close within weeks. Terms will be released when the deal closes, he said.

In June, Agrium acquired 13 Viterra locations in Australia.

Swiss commodities trader Glencore bought Canada's biggest grain handler Viterra in 2012 and kept most of Viterra's grain storage and processing sites in Canada and Australia.

It struck side deals to sell some assets to Canadian companies Agrium and grain handler Richardson International Inc, softening any political concerns about the foreign takeover.

The Competition Bureau approved Glencore's deal with Richardson in December, leaving the two as roughly equal-sized players in the Canadian grain-handling industry.

Agrium's deal, however, rankled some farmers, who wanted the regulator to scale back the purchase to prevent the company from becoming too powerful in the sale of fertilizer and other crop supplies.

Along with being the biggest North American farm retail dealer, Agrium is the world's third-biggest maker of nitrogen.

Agrium's original deal with Glencore was for about 90 percent of Viterra's Canadian farm retail business, or 232 stores. That number was whittled down by the bureau excluding seven stores from the deal, Agrium exercising an option to pass on buying some outlets and Viterra selling or closing other outlets, Agrium spokesman Richard Downey said.

Including its existing 65 outlets, Agrium will have 275 farm retail stores in Western Canada after the deal closes.

Officials with Viterra and Glencore could not be immediately reached.

(Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Manitoba; Editing by Will Dunham)

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