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Temasek wins auction for stake in India ag group

Temasek showed that the storm over Olam International had not deterred it from agriculture investments by buying a stake in an Indian palm oil-to-poultry group, beating off competition from private equity houses.

Temasek, Singapore's powerful state investment fund, paid 5.72bn rupees ($104m) for a 19.9% stake in Godrej Agrovet, a subsidiary of the Godrej Industries conglomerate.

The investment comes as Temasek has been dragged into the furore at Olam, the agricultural commodities trader under attack from short-selling fund Muddy Waters, in part over debt levels.

Temasek has agreed to underwrite an Olam capital raise, of up to $1.2bn, a measure which could in theory take its stake in the agricultural trader close to 30%, saying that it was "supportive" of a strategy of building "more upstream and midstream capabilities and capacities".

"We are pleased to have another opportunity to invest in the company."

While Temasek does not reveal a full breakdown of its investments, its Olam stake, currently valued at about $450m, is believed to represent one of its largest in agriculture.

'Attractive sector'

Rohit Sipahimalani, Temasek's head of India, said the fund was, with its Agrovet investment, "pleased to have another opportunity to partner with the Godrej Group", after buying a 4.9% stake in Godrej Consumer Products earlier this year.

The Agrovet investment was made "in what is an attractive sector in India", he said.

Indeed, Agrovet has already, four years ago, won investment from Tyson Group, the US meat giant, with which it formed a poultry joint venture four years ago.

Temasek is believed to have beaten off competition from private equity houses including Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Apollo Global Management for the 19.9% stake, being sold to raise cash for acquisitions and capacity expansion.

Nadir Godrej said that Temasek's "global credentials, knowledge of agribusiness and excellent track record will be beneficial to Agrovet.

"Godrej Agrovet has been a tremendous source of value creation for Godrej Industries, and continues to be on a strong revenue and profit trajectory."

'Inflection point'

Indeed, Indian agriculture was "at an inflection point", which promised a "very bright" future for the business, Mr Godrej said.

Agrovet, besides its poultry tie-up, also runs a palm oil division, managing more than 45,000 hectares of plantations, and has operations in feed and in farm inputs, such as fertilizer.

It claims 2,000 employees, 45 manufacturing plans and a network of more than 10,000 rural distributors.

Other recent investments in India's agriculture sector include, in dairy, Danone and Fonterra, which are both reported to be bidding for control of Tirumala Milk Products in an effort to expand their operations in the country.

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