* Australia not risking food security - GrainCorp CEO
* Adjusted net profit A$175 mln vs A$205 mln
* Still awaiting regulatory approval for A$3 bln ADM bid
* Sets final dividend of 20 cents per share
By Colin Packham
SYDNEY, Nov 14 (Reuters) - GrainCorp’s chief executive said fears Australia would risk its food security by allowing a A$3 billion ($2.8 billion) bid for the grain handler by Archer Daniel Midland Co are misplaced, as it forecast a tougher year ahead.
Some Australian farm groups and politicians from within the ruling Liberal-National coalition opppose the takeover, which is awaiting a final decision by Treasurer Joe Hockey after advice from the country’s Foreign Investment Review Board.
“Australia of any country in the world has the least to be concerned about when it comes to food security,” GrainCorp Chief Executive Alison Watkins said on Thursday, as the group revealed a 15 percent fall in adjusted full-year net profit to A$175 million.
Deputy prime minister Warren Truss, the leader of the rural-based National Party, said earlier this month the bid raised questions about Australia’s capacity “to make decisions about whether we want to expand our grain industry, whether we want to be the food bowl of Asia.”
Hockey has imposed a deadline of Dec. 17 for his decision, but a rejection of the bid would fly in the face of the newly elected government’s pledge that Australia is open for business.
Watkins said Australia exported two-thirds to three-quarters of the food it produced.
The full-year profit for GrainCorp, the largest handler of grains on Australia’s east coast, was in line with analysts’ forecasts after a smaller harvest dented revenues, but Watkins said the current season would be challenging for many growers.
“Drought conditions in Queensland and northern New South Wales have negatively impacted yields in those regions, while recent frosts have affected many areas further south,” she said.
“After a couple of big years, GrainCorp’s storage and logistics network must be well prepared for the much tougher period ahead.”
GrainCorp is one of numerous Australian agribusinesses to have attracted international interest in recent years, with bidders betting on the country’s ability to supply fast-growing Asia with quality food.
ADM is looking to increase its geographic reach, while GrainCorp is the last available independent asset of scale in Australia, the world’s second-largest wheat exporter and an attractive market due to stable policies and links to Asia.
GrainCorp, which also has malt and oils units as well as its grains marketing operations, and storage and logistics businesses, said the U.S. agri-giant had so far secured 28.3 percent of acceptances for its offer.
It declared a dividend of 20 cents per share and said it planned to pay out the remaining 55 cents per share of dividends allowed under ADM’s offer before the deal went unconditional.
Shares in GrainCorp eased one cent to A$12.19. ADM’s takeover bid is also awaiting regulatory approval from China.