Wednesday, November 26, 2008

AGCO attempting buyout of Chinese manufacturer, CEO says

* In talks with Foton Lovol Heavy Industries, says company insider 
* Company will look at privately-held opportunities with fewer obstacles, banker says 
__________________________________________ 

AGCO (NYSE: AG), a Duluth, Georgia-based agricultural equipment manufacturer, is considering buying out a privately-owned Chinese manufacturer, said Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Martin Richenhagen. The company is in talks with Foton Lovol Heavy Industries, said a Foton Lovol insider. 
“Basically we are working in two directions,” said Richenhagen in an interview with this news service during a visit to Brazil. “One is a greenfield factory for manufacturing drive trains for tractors under 100 kW, which will help us have low-cost components for our factories all over the world.” The second direction is the takeover of a privately-held company, currently under negotiation, he added. 
AGCO expects to end the year with about USD 600m in cash and almost USD 9bn in revenues, said Richenhagen, adding that the company also plans to make a large acquisition of up to USD 3bn in six months, as previously reported by this news service. 
In China, AGCO uses an advisor that is familiar with the financial situation that also provides good due diligence, said Richenhagen, declining to name the firm. “We typically use an auditor, a financial advisor and a legal advisor.” 
There are not many options in China for tractor acquisitions, commented an industry source, who is CEO of an international agricultural equipment manufacturer in Brazil, and knows AGCO's movements. The Chinese Tractor Owners Association reported nine tractor manufacturers as members: Beiqi Foton Motor Co. holding of Foton Lovol Heavy Industries; Benye Tractor Corp.; Dongfeng Agricultural Machinery Group Co. (DFAM); Hubei Shenniu Tractor Co.; Jiangsu Jiangdong Group Co. Ltd.; Jiangsu Yueda Yangcheng Tractor Plant; Jiangling Tractor Co.; Shandong Tractor Works, and Weifeng Machine Works. 
Deere & Co, the Illinois-based maker of agricultural equipment, acquired Benye Tractor last year. Among the other options is Foton Lovol Heavy Industries, whose executives have said that they could consider M&A moves. Foton Lovol (formerly known as Shandong Foton Heavy Industries) is the biggest manufacturer of tractors and combine harvesters in China, registering CNY 9.5 bn (USD 1.39 bn) in 2007 sales, and is a subsidiary of Beiqi Foton Motor Company Limited. According to a past report on this news service, the company had IPO plans and was considering long-term M&A moves in 2006. 
A Foton Lovol insider said the company has been in talks with AGCO for business cooperation for a while, which includes a possible M&A transaction. The source declined to reveal how long the two companies had been negotiating, but said the two parties are trying to work out a plan that can achieve synergies for both sides. The source said the major issue that slowed down the talks is whether Foton Lovol would let AGCO take a controlling position: “AGCO seeks a buyout, or at least a controlling stake, while we would rather not sell a controlling stake.” Beiqi Foton would oversee the final process, because the company is its subsidiary, but Foton Lovol would negotiate the specific terms, said the source. 
A Chinese banker said AGCO tried to takeover several listed Chinese agricultural equipment makers in the past few years, but the deals have failed for the same reason. “AGCO is often interested in takeover deals. But most listed agricultural equipment makers in China are state-owned, and they are not likely to accept takeover bids from overseas counterparts.” The source said that AGCO is looking now at targets in the private sector rather than state-held industries, because they would encounter fewer obstacles in negotiations. 
In a report published by this news service in September, Richenhagen said he had identified several candidates and was expecting to complete a deal by the end of the year. In January 2007, Richenhagen confirmed its interest in China-based First Tractor, and in Case New Holland (CNH) or German Claas, but both companies informed at the time they were not for sale. 

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