Chinese delaying sale of Gavilon to Japanese company

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Posted: Wednesday, April 3, 2013 12:00 am

The purchase of Omaha-based commodities trader Gavilon remains on track but is facing further delays by the Chinese government.

Japan-based trading firm Marubeni Corp. has again been forced to delay finalizing the $5.6 billion purchase of Gavilon, one of the largest U.S. buyers and sellers of grain, according to a person involved who spoke on the condition of not being identified.

Gavilon officials could not be reached for comment.

Chinese regulators have a say because the combined company would account for about 20 percent of grain imports into the world’s most populous nation. China’s officials have not finished their evaluation of the deal.

“Approvals have been received by regulators from the United States and from those in countries other than China,” the source said.

The acquisition of Gavilon was supposed to close in September. International news outlet Reuters first reported the additional delay Tuesday, saying the deal is not in danger and now is expected to close in April.

Marubeni agreed last year to buy Gavilon, employer of 350 in the metro area and 2,000 worldwide, for $3.6 billion plus the assumption of $2 billion of debt.

Gavilon emerged from the commodities trading desk at Omaha-based food processor ConAgra in 2008. It is building a $44 million office in downtown Omaha.

Gavilon took its current name after being sold by ConAgra to investors who included a private investment group managed by Soros Fund Management. That is the firm founded by legendary commodities investor George Soros.

The unit formerly known as ConAgra Trade Group was sold to the investors for about $2.8 billion. Since then, Gavilon has grown and now has operations in 13 countries. It has 144 grain storage centers and 85 for fertilizer, buying from producers and selling to users. It also trades and stores oil and natural gas.

Prospective new owner Marubeni is a global giant. Based in Tokyo, the company had a 2012 profit of $1.8 billion. It was founded in 1858 and has 4,200 employees. It is known in Japan as one of the largest “general trading companies.” With Marubeni, trading includes food, pulp and paper, textiles and energy commodities, according to the 2012 annual report.

Contact the writer: 402-444-3133, russell.hubbard@owh.com

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