(Reuters) - Mergers and acquisitions have been gaining momentum in Brazil’s sugar and ethanol sector since the 2008 credit crisis overwhelmed mills laden with too much debt.
Brazil’s Cosan, the world’s largest ethanol and sugar processor, agreed on Monday to merge its ethanol and fuel distribution units with Royal Dutch Shell in a deal worth as much as $12 billion.
The following are key facts about Brazil’s ethanol industry:
* On December 24, U.S. agricultural company Bunge Ltd agreed to pay $452 million in stock for Brazilian sugar and ethanol producer Moema.
* On December 22, Brazil’s state energy company Petrobras paid $84 million for a 40.4 percent stake in Total Agroindustria Canavieira ethanol mill.
Petrobras, which is mostly focused on oil and gas production, plans to buy two or three more ethanol mills in 2010 as part of a plan to boost production to 3.9 billion liters by 2013.
* The Brazilian unit of French commodities group Louis Dreyfus in October said it would take over Brazilian firm Santelisa Vale to create the world’s second-largest sugar cane processor.
The new venture, called LDC-SEV, will control 13 sugar and ethanol plants and have annual cane crushing capacity of 40 million tonnes, second only to Brazil’s Cosan.
Santelisa Vale, burdened by debt, had just emerged from a merger of two of Brazil’s pioneer cane milling groups, Santa Elisa and Vale do Rosario, when the credit crunch set in.
* Biofuels investor Clean Energy Brazil sold its 49 percent stake in Brazilian sugar mill Usaciga for $8.7 million — much less than its initial investment — after the plant’s debt pile proved too big a burden in a tough ethanol market.
CEB said in September that Usaciga had debts of about $185 million and posted a net loss of some $50 million for the year to the end of April.
* Investors in the sector include large millers such as Cosan, Copersucar and Crystalsev, multinationals such as Cargill Inc, Bunge Ltd, ADM Co and Louis Dreyfus, several private equity funds and now even oil majors such as BP and Royal Dutch Shell.
* Within five years, Brazil’s 10 largest groups are expected to control 45 percent of the national cane crush, up from 30 percent currently, according to a forecast by the consultancy Datagro. Most of Brazil’s 400-odd cane mills are still family-controlled in complex ownership structures.
* Brazil’s 2009/10 cane crush is seen at a record 612 million tonnes, which would be up from 572 million tonnes last season.
Writing by Reese Ewing