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By Colin Packham
SYDNEY, March 27 (Reuters) - A consortium of grain handlers plans to build a new terminal at Port Kembla in Australia's New South Wales state, signalling fresh competition for the region's biggest listed agribusiness GrainCorp.
Logistics business Qube Holdings said it has formed a joint venture with Noble Resources, a unit of Singapore's Noble Group, to develop the multi-user handling facility with capacity for more than 1.3 million tonnes of export grain a year.
Cargill Group and Emerald Grain have been granted the option to acquire up to a 20 percent stake each in the new venture, Quattro Grain, which is expected to be operational by late 2015 or early 2016.
The new terminal will put further pressure on GrainCorp and its largest port, also based at Port Kembla, which has seen a wave of new competition since the rejection of a A$2.8 billion takeover bid for the company by U.S. agribusiness Archer Daniels Midland.
GrainCorp has seen increased competition for its port business following the opening earlier this year of the Newcastle Agri Terminal, backed by Western Australian bulk grain handler CBH Group, Glencore Xstrata and Olam International.
In rejecting ADM's bid last November, the Australian government cited a lack of competition along the country's east coast.
"It is further evidence, if any was required, of the strong competition for grain in eastern Australia," said Angus Trigg, a spokesman for GrainCorp.
Qube said New South Wales Ports would extend and deepen the berth at Port Kembla to accommodate Panamax vessels. The new terminal was dependent on receiving all necessary authorisations.
China's biggest grains trader COFCO Corp is in talks to buy Noble Resources, Noble Group's agribusiness arm, in a deal that would value the division at around $1 billion, people familiar with the matter have told Reuters.
Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Richard Pullin