China's COFCO Agri seeing high interest in U.S. partnerships

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Chinese state-owned agricultural trader COFCO Agri [CNCOF.UL] is finding plenty of interest from potential U.S. crop handling partners who are eager to boost sales to China, its chief executive said on Thursday.

“Most of the other companies are western companies looking east, trying to participate in China,” said CEO Matt Jansen on the sidelines of a BMO investor conference in New York. “On our side, we are China at the origin, from the roots.”

Jansen, a former Archer Daniels Midland Co executive from Arkansas, declined to say how many companies COFCO Agri is in serious discussions with, or what its budget is for expansion. Acquisitions of $1 billion or more are also not out of the question this year, he said.

“I see a lot of people who are really interested in accessing China. Whether they are a willing seller of their business is another story.”

COFCO has embarked on an aggressive expansion into international grain trading, having invested over $3 billion to buy Noble Group’s agribusiness in March and a large stake in Dutch grain trader Nidera.

With $16.9 billion in sales, it is now shopping for deals in the United States and Canada to give it access to North America’s grains and oilseeds for export.

Jansen declined to say if he is interested in Andersons Inc, which on Wednesday rejected a $1 billion takeover offer from HC2 Holdings Inc.

COFCO Agri intends listing together Nidera’s agricultural assets and COFCO Agri, which includes the Noble agribusiness, in 2019.

Reporting by Rod Nickel; editing by Diane Craft