ADM to keep its cocoa presses but to sell chocolate business

NEW YORK/CHICAGO Tue Apr 15, 2014 5:50pm EDT

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NEW YORK/CHICAGO (Reuters) - Archer Daniels Midland Co (ADM.N) on Tuesday said it will keep its cocoa presses but still wants to sell its chocolate business after long-running negotiations to sell the money-losing operations to a buyer collapsed.

Global agribusiness ADM said in a statement that extensive negotiations with a potential buyer did not reach an "outcome that met ADM's objectives." It did not name any suitors.

Sources familiar with the discussions told Reuters last year that Cargill Inc CARG.UL had been in final-stage talks with ADM to buy ADM's cocoa and chocolate businesses. With ADM representing about a quarter of global cocoa bean processing capacity, the deal would have created a company big enough to compete with Barry Callebaut AG (BARN.S), the world's largest maker of industrial chocolate.

Cargill declined to comment on ADM's cocoa or chocolate businesses.

Legal experts have warned that the two companies' global reach and the concentration of capacity in Europe would have raised antitrust issues.

ADM and Cargill make up part of a group of companies known as the "ABCD" that dominate the flow of agricultural commodities around the world. The other two are Bunge Ltd (BG.N) and Louis Dreyfus Corp LOUDR.UL.

The news came as ADM announced plans to buy the remaining 20 percent stake of grain trader Alfred C. Toepfer International to give it 100 percent ownership. Since 2002, ADM has owned 80 percent of Toepfer; Union InVivo has held the remaining 20 percent since 2010.

ADM's pursuit of a buyer for its chocolate business and its sale of South American fertilizer operations show that the company is focusing on its core grain operations, said Philippe de Laperouse, director of HighQuest Partners' global food and agribusiness practice and a former Bunge executive.

ADM said it struck a deal to sell its fertilizer business in Brazil and Paraguay to Mosaic Company (MOS.N) for $350 million.

(Additional reporting by Josephine Mason in New York; Editing by Leslie Adler and Lisa Shumaker)

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