* Chinese approval was last regulatory hurdle
* Viterra expects deal to be finalized Dec. 17
* Canada Competition Bureau to review Glencore side deals
By Bhaswati Mukhopadhyay and Rod Nickel
Dec 7 Glencore International Plc won
approval from China's Ministry of Commerce on Friday for its C$6
billion ($6 billion) purchase of Canadian grain handler Viterra
Inc, clearing the last regulatory hurdle for the
The takeover, one of the largest in the global agriculture
industry in years, was originally expected to close by late
The deal will give Swiss-based Glencore, the world's largest
diversified commodities trader, a huge presence in grains - an
area dominated by Archer Daniels Midland Co, Cargill Inc
and Bunge Ltd - complementing its strength in
metals, minerals and oil.
After selling off some Viterra assets in side deals that
still require Canadian regulator approval, Glencore and
privately held Richardson International Ltd would be the leading
grain handlers in Canada, the world's biggest producer of canola
and sixth-largest wheat grower.
Richardson, which has agreed to buy some of Viterra's
assets, and Glencore would each own about one-third of Western
Canada's grain-handling capacity. The companies would be roughly
the same size.
Viterra also owns almost all of the grain storage and
handling system in South Australia, which produces about 15
percent of the crops grown in Australia.
Viterra, whose only significant asset in China is a joint
venture canola-crushing plant, said on Friday it expects the
deal to be finalized on Dec. 17. It was
originally expected to close by late July.
There had been speculation that China was holding off on a
decision until it found out if the Canadian government would
approve a takeover of Canadian oil producer Nexen Inc
by China's CNOOC Ltd.
Friday's approval was the last outstanding regulatory nod
for the acquisition.
Viterra is one of several major companies in play this year
in the global grain-handling sector, with interest driven in
part by soaring grain prices and bullish outlooks for a rising
world population and food demand.
U.S.-based Archer Daniels Midland raised its bid this week
for Australia's GrainCorp Ltd to $2.9 billion, and
Marubeni Corp is buying U.S. grain merchant Gavilon for
$5.6 billion, pending regulator approval.
Shareholders of Viterra overwhelmingly accepted Glencore's
offer of C$16.25 per share in May. Glencore offered to buy
Viterra in March.
The extended review has delayed the side deals Glencore has
made to transfer some Viterra assets to Agrium Inc
, CF Industries Holdings Inc and Richardson.
The Competition Bureau of Canada, which operates at arm's
length from the Canadian government, declined to comment on its
review of the side deals.
Agrium CEO Mike Wilson said in mid-November that the
Canadian fertilizer company expects to close its C$575 million
purchase of most of Viterra's farm retail stores in the first
quarter of 2013.
Agrium would get 232 Canadian farm retail outlets - where it
would sell seed, chemicals and fertilizer to farmers - as well
as 17 stores in Australia. Richardson is set to buy 23 percent
of Viterra's grain-handling assets, as well as certain
processing assets in North America, for C$900 million.
U.S.-based CF would acquire Viterra's 34 percent stake in
Canadian Fertilizer - a nitrogen plant in Medicine Hat, Alberta
- for C$915 million.
Viterra shares, which touched a seven-month low of C$15.65
in late October on concerns over delays to the Glencore deal,
rose 2.4 percent in early trading on Friday to C$16.23, just
below Glencore's purchase price.
Glencore shares were down 0.8 percent at 343 pence on the
London Stock Exchange.