ADM bid failed to engage

To understand where things went wrong for the American giant we have to look at the present and past

ARCHER Daniels Midland's (ADM) failure to seal the deal to gain ownership of GrainCorp is the culmination of a complex range of factors.

To understand where things went wrong for the American giant we have to look both at the present and the past.

ADM will look back and see that it squandered a relatively straightforward chance to acquire a blue-chip investment by failing to engage with GrainCorp’s grower customers.

It won over GrainCorp investors, had the support from the big end of town who liked what they saw in terms of additional investment, but failed to win over the growers.

ADM did not face an insurmountable task in getting grower support. The Victorian Farmers' Federation (VFF) was initially supportive of the ADM takeover deal.

It became increasingly sceptical when ADM refused to commit to key areas of grower concern, such as port access and spreading of efficiency gains throughout the supply chain, issuing a series of deliberately wafty statements.

But although ADM did not shower itself in glory through its campaigning process in rural Australia, it may have been up against it from the start.

The grains industry remains in a state of flux as it looks to firmly establish itself in the post-deregulation environment.

Growers remain apprehensive about the Australian Wheat Board's (AWB) monopoly being pushed one link further down the supply chain and port operators holding all the aces, and talk of voluntary regulation has done little to allay these fears.

With this in mind, the big surprise was that Glencore managed to get ownership of the South Australian ports via its acquisition of Viterra, so easily.

The blocking of the ADM deal marks a change in direction in the decision making process within the Australian grains industry.

Previously, moves such as the demerger of AWB and the removal of the foundation share in GrainCorp, along with the corporatisation of ABB have followed the free market handbook.

There have been mutterings among the grower community that the people responsible for generating profits for grains businesses have been overlooked and not shared in any of the benefits of added capital.

Growers have had to weigh up the virtues of the unlocking of added capital through corporatisation or maintaining control, as has happened in Western Australia, with CBH remaining a co-operative. Many have said they are happy to take a small hit in terms of efficiencies to be able to keep a closer check on the businesses so critical to their own profitability.

Is this sustainable in the long run, with the capital crisis in Australia ag?

Perhaps not, but future suitors of Australian agribusinesses will know they need to engage with all the players, not just wooing the business sector.

Gregor Heard

Gregor Heard

is the national grains writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media
Date: Newest first | Oldest first


5/12/2013 1:17:58 PM

In your dreams US money. Broaden your horizons.
US money
4/12/2013 5:06:45 PM

The VFF only got excited about this deal Gregor, when the National Party drummed up hysteria and anti foreign investment to suit their expedient motives. Farmers have been dealt a massively selfish spin on this deal by the Nats. GrainCorp does not have a monopoly. The grower groups were just led astray from good judgement they initially had.
4/12/2013 3:56:07 PM

"mutterings amongst the grower community " is a bit of an understatement , Gregor. The people who have run GC since it's inception always had this kind of thing in mind, why pay so much out in dividends if you had the future growth of the company at heart. Taylor is now talking about contracting their network , as if that hadn't already been happening and as if ADM weren't going to do exactly the same thing. the reason GC has competition up country is because they don't give a stuff about growers. Now they'll have to work a bit harder
4/12/2013 6:31:47 AM

Gregor, you have explained the ADM failure pretty well. I think there was too much emphasis by them and GrainCorp on the need for foreign capital. It is just capital needed. Why limit it to foreign capital. CBH as you say, is a good case study. It is arguably, the best overall grain bulk system in the world all built on local capital with grower ownership. All capitalists want is a good, secure investment. If ADM can see that in GrainCorp, then GrainCorp should be able to sell that message to any investors. If not they are doing things wrong. A better CEO and Board is needed.
Grain of TruthRural Press grains writer Gregor Heard on the big issues facing the broadacre farmers today.


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