COFCO Agri to expand North American operation

Chinese state-owned agri giant COFCO continues its expansion in North America, after its chief executive said a presence in the region will be key to a public offering.

Chinese government and private equity-backed agribusiness COFCO Agri is opening its first office in Canada, increasing its presence in North America as it prepares for a public offering in the medium term.

The grains, oilseeds, sugar, coffee and cotton trader and processor has been teaming with private equity investors to expand its existing operations and acquire new ones for the past two years. In 2014, KKR, Baring Private Equity Asia, Hopu Investment Management and Boye Capital funded a build-out of industrial pig farming and meat-processing projects by COFCO subsidiary, COFCO Meat.

The expanding business announced last year that it plans to target a public stock exchange listing in the future. COFCO Agri chief executive, Matt Jansen, has previously said that part of that will be dependent on building up the company’s presence in North America.

“…in order to complete a global footprint we need something [in North America], probably in the grain origination for export type of business,” he said earlier this year in the Financial Times.

COFCO, a subsidiary of Chinese state-owned agri company COFCO Corporation, only has one regional trading and asset office in North America in Stamford, Connecticut, according to its website. The new office will trade grains domestically and for export.

Known as Noble Agri before its acquisition by COFCO and private equity fund Hopu in March, the company will hire three grain traders and a logistics manager to staff its latest expansion into Winnipeg, according to a post by the company to the professional social network site, LinkedIn.

Hopu, COFCO’s principle investment partner, was established by ex-Goldman Sachs banker Fang Fenglei in 2007. The firm has since received commitments from Goldman Sachs, Singaporean sovereign wealth fund Temasek Holdings, and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. The firm has raised more than half the $2 billion target for its sovereign wealth fund and institutional investor-backed Hopu US dollar Master Fund II, according to PEI Research & Analytics. The fund focuses on natural resources, financial services and the consumer sector.