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'Underperforming' Noble Agri turns to ADM for new boss

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Noble Agri, the agricultural trading giant backed by China's Cofco and Singapore-based Noble Group, turned to the US for its chief executive, poaching Matthew Jansen from Archer Daniels Midland.

Noble Agri - formerly Noble Group's agriculture division, in which a Cofco-led consortium took a 51% stake in September – said that Mr Jansen had been appointed its chief executive "with immediate" effect.

He replaces Yusuf Alireza, the Noble Group chief executive, who had been interim chief executive for the joint venture while a permanent appoint was made.

The appointment gives Mr Jansen leadership of a company with more than 12,000 employees, and with operations in more than 25 countries, and ranging from Brazilian sugar production to oilseed crushing in China, South Africa and Ukraine.

Upward progress

Mr Jansen leaves ADM after 25 years at the group, during which he served in Europe, Brazil and the US, in a wide range of positions, including leadership of South American operations, and of the group's grains business - North America's largest.

He is leaving the US-based ag giant as president of the oilseeds business, ADM's biggest global division, and chief risk officer.

Indeed, many observers had seen Mr Jansen as a potential successor to Patricia Woertz as ADM chief executive, a post instead taken in January by Juan Luciano, a Dow Chemical veteran who was formerly the ag trader's chief operating officer.

Mr Luciano late on Monday said that Mr Jansen "has elected to pursue an opportunity with another company. We wish him well".

'Business underperformed'

However, at Noble Agri, Mr Jansen takes charge of an operation with a somewhat patchy record, having lost $109.4m in the first nine months of last year, and $481.8m in calendar 2013, according to Noble Group accounts.

In the first three months of 2015, Noble Agri "underperformed compared to our expectations" Noble Group said, albeit in a quieter period for the operation.

Mr Alireza told investors last week that "our experience, since we closed the sale of the 51% of our agri business at the end of September, has added to our conviction that we have done the right deal with the right partners.

"With that said, neither ourselves, nor our partners, underestimate the time, hard work, and execution risk associated with such a venture."

'Extensive recruitment process'

Mr Alireza said on Tuesday that Mr Jansen had been chosen "following an extensive worldwide recruitment process, not just for his leadership pedigree, but also for our shared passion to build a world-leading agribusiness group".

Frank Ning, chairman of both Noble Agri and Cofco, said that "Matt brings with him the depth of knowledge and broad business experience gained through his years' career in the highly competitive global agri-business.

"He is ideally suited to drive the future growth of Noble Agri."


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