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Glencore expands stake in heavily-indebted canola plant

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Glencore expanded its stake in a heavily-indebted US canola crushing operation, even as it mulls divesting part of its agricultural business in a bid to improve its balance sheet.

The group's grain investment unit increased its stake in the beleaguered Pacific Coast Canola plant to 50%, from 16%.

The remaining 50% of the business is to be acquired by McKinstry Holdings.

And Glencore's Viterra unit at the same time announced that it had struck a supply and marketing agreement to crush canola at the Washington-based plant.

Loan default

Financial details were not disclosed, but no cash consideration will be made for the plant.

The plant, which was built by Legumex Walker, is heavily indebted, having struggled with low margins and transport disruptions.

In September Legumex Walker announced that it would sell the facility, after Pacific Coast Canola defaulted on a $54.6m loan.

The move came as Legume Walker was wound down, with the business's speciality crops division being sold to US crop handler The Scoular Company.

Rising capacity

The deal expands Viterra's existing canola crushing capacity, in Mantoba and Quebec.

In November, Viterra tripled its crushing capacity with the C$190m purchase of a facility in Quebec, which can crush over 1m tonnes of soybeans and canola a year.

The Pacific Coast Canola plant has a capacity of around 400,000 tonnes a year.

Debt drive

Glencore has been struggling with debt. Last month the company announced that it will aim to cut its net-debt by $13bn to $18-19bn by the end of 2016.

One measure which is being considered is the sale of a minority stake in the group's agricultural business, in the form on an initial public offering.

A spokesperson for Glencore told declined to comment on the effect of the acquisition on the company's debt profile, but said that it would be providing an update its next set of results.

Glencore shares were down 6.3% in London in afternoon deals, at 82.7645 pence, amid fresh weakness in the broad commodity complex.


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