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REMEMORANDO: Votorantim to sell citrus processor

THE orange juice industry is buzzing with speculation that Brazils Big Four may soon become the Big Three.

FOODNEWS sources in Brazil say that Louis Dreyfus is in talks with the giant Brazilian chemicals to agro-industry combine, Votorantim, to buy its Citrovita orange juice processing operation for around US$400 million. These rumours have been in the air since December, but nobody will confirm it, said FOODNEWS source.

According to FOODNEWS contacts, the acquisition is being handled by Goldman Sachs in New York but Goldman Sachs declined to comment. Neither Citrovita nor Louis Dreyfus was prepared to make any statement on the matter.

The acquisition would make sense for both Louis Dreyfus and Citrovita, as the latter has no presence in the US and is currently not involved in NFC orange juice production, which is presently more lucrative than FCOJ manufacture.

Votorantim is believed to be in urgent need of liquidity after its currency hedging last year incurred losses estimated at up to US$2.0 billion. It is also believed to have bet disastrously on the price of oil, locking itself into high-priced supply contracts for the coming year. The company has just raised BRL4.2 billion (US$1.8 billion) by selling a 50% stake in its bank, Banco Votorantim, to the largest government-controlled lender, Banco do Brasil.

With Cutrale owning a 30% stake in Citrosuco, any further consolidation in the Brazilian industry would put even greater pressure on the countrys orange farmers, who have already taken legal action against what they see as a cartel, and any sale would presumably be subject to approval by Brazils anti-competition authorities.


FOODNEWS
Friday January 16 2009

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