* Cargill concerned about government “mandates”
* No “immediate” reason to boost ethanol investment seen
* No plans to review Cargill private ownership structure (Adds details, E15 background)
By Christine Stebbins
DES MOINES, Iowa, Oct 14 (Reuters) - Agribusiness giant Cargill Inc [CARG.UL], a major producer of biofuels, said on Thursday the U.S. government’s move to allow more ethanol in U.S. gasoline would have no immediate effect on its investment plans.
“I think it’s something that has to be considered. At this moment it’s unlikely to be an immediate stimulus,” Cargill chief executive Greg Page told Reuters in an interview on Thursday.
Cargill produces millions of gallons of ethanol from both its corn milling plants. Its largest, at Blair, Nebraska, alone produces more than 200 million gallons of the fuel each year. But Cargill also produces corn feed, edible corn oil, corn sweeteners, bioplastics and other products at the plant.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in a decision favored by many corn farmers and biofuel makers but opposed by auto and food makers, raised the amount of fuel that can be blended into gasoline to 15 percent, up from the current 10 percent, for cars and light trucks built in 2007 or later.
The E-15 decision was an immediate boost to corn farmers and ethanol refiners gearing up to meet government mandates for renewable fuel use passed in 2007. But Page said for a diversified conglomerate like Cargill, which is a livestock and meat producer as well as feed-maker and processor of crops for many other uses, government “mandates” create problems.
“Our concerns have always been about mandates,” Page said. “If you have a mandate, then you’re basically interfering through politics with the ability of price to signal behavior change,” he added.
“If a big part of our corn usage for ethanol is inelastic, it’s mandated, then all the burden, if we have a small crop in the U.S., has to be borne by the diary farmer, swine owner, poultry owner, cattle,” Page said.
“The events of yesterday were not central to any of our thinking about it,” he added.
Asked if Cargill, one of the world’s largest privately held corporations, was considering any changes in its ownership structure that could lead to a public issue of shares, Page said: “No.”
“Every visible signal from our family shareholders is that they’ve been wonderful in the past and I have not received any indication they don’t plan to be wonderful on an ongoing basis,” he said.
Cargill is owned mainly by members of the Cargill and MacMillan families. The global demand for food has sparked family-owned trading companies like Louis Dreyfus to consider merging with other firms. Dreyfus is in talks with rival Singapore-based Olam International.
“We’ve had great owners. We publish our earnings ... credit rating. The resources that our family continues to leave in the company have allowed us to grow faster than other people we compete with,” Page said.
Cargill on Tuesday reported global quarterly earnings of $883 million, up 68 percent, on revenues of $27.8 billion.
Reporting by Christine Stebbins;editing by Sofina Mirza-Reid