GrainCorp shares soar on new PM

17 Sep, 2015 05:37 AM
There was no reason why the Graincorp transaction should have been blocked

THE change of power to new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull appears to have stoked speculation that a fresh $3 billion takeover bid for Australia's biggest listed agribusiness GrainCorp may now be welcome.

The company's shares have surged almost 9 per cent since Mr Turnbull won the Liberal leadership and the prime ministership in a late night ballot on Monday.

The Abbott government famously blocked a takeover of GrainCorp by US agribusiness titan Archer Daniels Midland in November 2013.

The change in leadership has fuelled speculation that Archer Daniels Midland could lob another offer.

"You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure it out," said one analyst about GrainCorp's share price surge.

Treasurer Joe Hockey, who is clinging on to his cabinet seat, barred the takeover, saying it was "contrary to the national interest", prompting criticism from business leaders and even a Coalition colleague, then Victorian Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh, who said it was a decision made "on the hop".

But government resistance to a US takeover of GrainCorp could change, despite Mr Hockey still being the nation's Treasurer, for now, and Mr Turnbull governing under a coalition with the Nationals.

"Yesterday's and today's share price action does correlate with the change in government and with the view that under Malcolm Turnbull's prime ministership Australia will be more open for business and more open particularly for FIRB [Foreign Investment Review Board] approvals," Morgans analyst Belinda Moore said.

"There was no reason why the GrainCorp transaction should have been blocked because it's certainly not a monopoly, and certainly with all the competition we are seeing on the east coast."

When he blocked the takeover Mr Hockey made ADM a concession, saying he would approve any proposal to increase its stake in the grain's handler to up to 24.9 per cent.

ADM has taken up the offer but remains GrainCorp's biggest shareholder with a 19.9 per cent stake.

Interestingly, Ellerston Capital is the grain handler's second largest shareholder with 11.2 per cent of the stock after rebuilding a stake this year.

Ellerston was one of two fund managers to sell a strategic stake to ADM in a light night raid of GrainCorp's register by ADM before it approached the board with a takeover offer.

Archer Daniels Midland has been investing heavily in the Asia-Pacific region. In June 2014, it bought the 20 per cent it didn't already own of European grain business Alfred C. Toepfer for €83 million ($130.7 million).

It said the move would give it more firepower in the Asia-Pacific. Combined, the pair will deal in more than $US14 billion ($20 billion) in commodities a year in the region.

If Archer Daniels Midland has another tilt at GrainCorp, it will also benefit from a weakening Australian dollar, which has dived from US92¢ in November 2013 to US71¢ since Mr Hockey blocked its initial attempt.

Ms Moore said if the US titan were to make another bid it should be "not one cent less" than its 2013 offer.

She said GrainCorp had a "clear strategy" to improve return on equity in coming years.

"In FY18, GrainCorp is targeting a more balanced portfolio of businesses with one-third of earnings coming from each of malt, oils and storage and logistics," Ms Moore said.

"The initiatives in place to strengthen the business along with growth projects should set GrainCorp up for a big FY18."

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Jock Munro
17/09/2015 6:13:01 AM

Just try it Turnbull and you will have a Nationals driven riot on your hands.
17/09/2015 7:29:04 AM

Bow to the "Market God" - note how Malcolm mentioned then in his first press conference - the theory is great but the reality is they are corrupt as with unions
17/09/2015 11:40:33 AM

Because Tunrbull is a comeback leader then the Press is unlikely to give any honeymoon period. With the need to get re-elected to qualify for a PM pension then he will be very careful until then, However, watch out afterwards should he get elected by the people. While he is a republic sympathiser he has no desire to hold on to Australian sovereignty. Like mining minerals; you can only sell off "the farm" once.. Production off the land and factories can go on forever and while factories can be moved offshore, fixed assets cannot. We need to keep control of the land we fought for..
Mock Junro
17/09/2015 1:34:59 PM

Every new terminal that gets built on the east coast diminishes the relative value of GNC.
John Carpenter
17/09/2015 4:02:29 PM

ADM is still sitting on a 19.8% shareholding and the GNC share price is at $8.60 compared to the all in offer price of about $15.60.A new takeover offer is only a matter of time.


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