Australia Blocks A.D.M. Bid for GrainCorp

Australia Blocks A.D.M. Bid for GrainCorp

HONG KONG — The Australian government rejected on Friday a $ 2.7 billion takeover bid for GrainCorp by Archer Daniels Midland, the American agribusiness giant, saying that the deal was against the national interest.

In a surprise decision, the Australian treasurer, Joe Hockey, announced that the country’s foreign investment review board had failed to reach a consensus on the matter and that he personally made the call blocking the deal, nodding to opposition from smaller grain growers and the general public.

‘‘Many industry participants, particularly growers in eastern Australia, have expressed concern that the proposed acquisition could reduce competition and impede growers’ ability to access the grain storage, logistics and distribution network,’’ Mr. Hockey said on Friday in a statement.

‘‘Allowing it to proceed could risk undermining public support for the foreign investment regime and ongoing foreign investment more generally,’’ he said. ‘‘This would not be in our national interest.’’

The Australian prime minister, Tony Abbott, who leads the conservative Liberal-National coalition that took office in September, ending the Labor Party’s six years of leadership, had pledged that the country would remain ‘‘open for business’’ during his term.

But the rejection of the A.D.M. bid for GrainCorp may raise concerns among foreign investors, and the decision was immediately criticized by the opposition.

‘‘This decision by the treasurer means that Australia will miss out on investment it should have received —jobs won’t be created that should have been created and the Australian economy will be worse off,’’ said Chris Bowen, the opposition spokesman on treasury issues, according to a report by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

‘‘If you want to ensure Australia’s food security, then you ensure investment in Australia’s food and agricultural industry,’’ Mr. Bowen said. ‘‘Whether that investment be foreign investment or domestic investment, you ensure investment.’’

A.D.M., based in Decatur, Illinois, had sought to acquire GrainCorp for more than a year, and this past week it offered to invest more in Australia if it succeeded in its bid for one of the country’s biggest grain producers. The sweetened deal was worth 3 billion Australian dollars, or $ 2.7 billion, in cash and dividends, with A.D.M. pledging to invest an additional 500 million dollars in the domestic grain business.

By its own estimates, GrainCorp handles 75 percent of eastern Australia’s annual grain production and 90 percent of that region’s bulk grain exports. The deal would have helped the American company expand its international footprint and tap rising demand from growing and increasingly wealthy countries in Asia, including China, a top export market for Australian agricultural products.

‘‘Throughout this process, we worked constructively to create an arrangement that would be in Australia’s best interests and made substantial commitments to address issues that were important to stakeholders,’’ Patricia A. Woertz, the chairwoman and chief executive of A.D.M., said in a statement. ‘‘We are disappointed by this decision.’’

Shares in GrainCorp fell as much as 26 percent in Sydney on Friday, briefly touching a 20-month low of 8.25 dollars before recovering a bit. The stock closed on Thursday at 11.20 dollars, still well below A.D.M.’s bid of 12.20 dollars a share, reflecting investors’ skepticism that the deal would succeed.

Despite the rejection, A.D.M. retains a 19.8 percent stake in GrainCorp. In his statement on Friday, Mr. Hockey, the treasurer, said he would allow the American company to increase its stake to as much as 24.9 percent.

‘‘Of the more than 130 applications that have come to my desk since the election, only one has been declined and this is it,’’ Mr. Hockey said. ‘‘I have acted in the national interest. The fact is the industry is going through transition and now is not the right time to have all the major players foreign owned.’’



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