Is ADM Bid for Australia’s GrainCorp in Trouble?

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U.S. agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland Co. (NYSE: ADM) announced last June that its Australian subsidiary had agreed to acquire the 80% or so of Australia’s GrainCorp that it did not already own for AUS$12.20 a share in cash plus a special one-time cash dividend of AUS$1.00. The total value of the deal is about AUS$3 billion. Shareholders already have approved the takeover, as have Australian regulators and the European Commission.

Australia’s Foreign Investment Review Board on Friday said it had extended its period for reviewing the acquisition until December 17. The board is charged with reviewing proposed foreign investments in Australian companies to ensure that the investments support the country’s national interest. It is similar to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) and Canada’s Investment Review Division. The extension is being made, according to the announcement, to give Australia’s new government enough time to consider the deal.

GrainCorp owns grain processing, storage, transport and marketing operations and is a “significant” Australian company as defined by the government’s review board. GrainCorp also owns a bulk liquids terminal in Shanghai, which means that China’s Ministry of Commerce must also approve the ADM acquisition.

The interesting thing is that GrainCorp’s shares are trading below ADM’s total offering price of AUS$13.20. Does this mean that investors are skeptical that the deal will be completed? Australia’s Conservative Party kicked out the Labor government in September elections, and one of the prime reasons for the change was voter unhappiness with the Labor government’s inability to capitalize on the boom in commodity metals during its six years of leadership.

The new government may conclude that GrainCorp’s business is not in Australia’s national interest, but that hardly seems likely. Still, Australia’s review board killed the proposed $8.4 billion acquisition of the Australian stock exchange in 2011 by the Singapore Exchange and in 2001 rejected Royal Dutch Shell PLC’s (NYSE: RDS-A) $10 billion acquisition of Woodside Petroleum.

ADM shares are inactive in premarket trading Friday morning, having closed at $36.75 last night in a 52-week range of $24.38 to $38.81.