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Elders shares touch 18-month high on bid interest

Shares in Elders touched an 18-month high after the veteran Australian agribusiness, which failed in an attempt to seal a buyer last year, revealed it had attracted a fresh round of bid interest.

Elders' shares jumped 17.8% at one point to Aus$0.265 on Tuesday, the highest since October 2012 - and taking to 130% their recovery over the past two months.

The rose followed the group's announcement that it had received "a number of… confidential" approaches, "from several parties, proposing participation by those parties in the affairs of the company.

However, it termed the approaches "informal" and "incomplete", adding that none of them had been "definite and in a form capable of consideration by the Elders board.

"Accordingly, they are not being considered by the Elders board."

'No live proposals'

The statement followed a report in the Australia Financial Review that Elders is being circled by Pacific Equity Partners, a Sydney-based private equity company whose portfolio stretches from renewable energy group Energy Developments to cinema operator Hoyts.

In the food sector, it owns New Zealand biscuit maker Griffin's Foods.

Market talk has also mentioned Wellard, Australia's largest livestock exporter and a farm operator over 35,700 hectares, as a potential suitor, with unnamed Asian interest mentioned too.

Elders said that there are "no live equity proposals by Pacific Equity Partners, or any other party, being considered by Elders".

Share price questions

The statement follows a week after Elders was investigated by compliance staff at the ASX exchange over the strong performance of its shares.

Elders said that it was "not aware of any information concerning it that could explain the recent trading in its securities, other than information already announced", highlighting in particular purchases of stock by its directors, and its forecast in May of a "positive" trading outlook.

The group, which traces its history back more than 170 years, put its operations up for sale last year, but received only one firm proposal for its core agriculture division, from rival RuralCo, an offer Elders deemed inadequate.

Elders shares retreated in late deals to close at Aus$0.225 on Tuesday, although this still matched their highest close since October 2010.

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