January 5, 2016 / 11:37 AM / in 3 years

Former head of China's COFCO named Sinochem chairman

BEIJING (Reuters) - The former head of China’s top food processor and grain trader COFCO Group Ltd has been appointed as the chairman of Sinochem Group, the country’s fourth-largest oil company said on Tuesday.

Former China National Cereals, Oils and Foodstuffs Corporation (COFCO) Chairman Frank Gaoning Ning attends the Asian Financial Forum in Hong Kong January 14, 2013. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

Ning Gaoning replaces long-serving Sinochem chief Liu Deshu, who is leaving due to reaching a government-set retirement age, Sinochem said, without giving further details.

Top jobs at major state-run enterprises such as Sinochem and COFCO are typically appointed by the government.

Sinochem Group, formerly the country’s monopoly oil and chemicals trader until the early 1990s, has expanded into oil and gas production, refining, agriculture and real estate.

Analysts said the appointment of Ning, known for making acquisitions in the agricultural sector, could see Sinochem further expand its seed and fertilizer business as the oil and gas business faces seven-year low oil prices.

“Ning has restructured lots of domestic grain and food assets into COFCO and he would continue to play such a role in assets acquisition at Sinochem, particularly the seed and fertilizer business,” said Ma Wenfeng, an analyst at Beijing Orient Agri-business Consultant.

“Without a breakthrough in China’s seed industry, there is no hope for the country’s agriculture sector and Ning should lead the state-owned company in that direction,” said Ma.

Beijing is encouraging consolidation of the fragmented domestic seed industry in a bid to create larger and more competitive global players.

In December, Noble Group Ltd said it would sell its remaining 49 percent stake in its agribusiness to COFCO International Ltd in a $750 million cash deal.

Earlier, the state asset regulator named Zhao Shuanglian, former head of Sinograin, as the new chairman of COFCO.

Reporting by Beijing Monitoring Desk, editing by Sunil Nair and Louise Heavens

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