SALIC adds ex-COFCO exec: reports

Matthew Jansen, who had the same position with China National Cereals, Oils and Foodstuffs Corporation’s international grain business, has reportedly joined Saudi Arabia’s state-backed ag investment unit as chief executive.

State-owned Saudi Agricultural and Livestock Investment Company has reportedly hired former China National Cereals, Oils and Foodstuffs Corporation chief executive Matthew Jansen to serve as its chief executive.

SALIC representatives had not replied to an Agri Investor request for more detail by press time.

According to media reports, Jansen, who left China’s state-owned COFCO in January 2017 after less than two years with the company, will be based in Riyadh and focused on efforts to bolster Saudi ag investments in line with the economic reform plans outlined in Vision 2030, a reform agenda for Saudi Arabia published in 2016.

Vision 2030 calls for purchases of foreign ag assets as part of Saudi Arabia’s efforts to bolster food security and reduce long-term economic dependence on oil exports. Water conservation efforts associated with the plan, for example, contributed to a 62 percent year-on-year increase in hay imports from the US in the first quarter of 2017, according to a report by Rabobank.

In 2016, SALIC paid $188 million for a 20 percent stake in Brazilian beef producer Minerva and its Canadian subsidiary paid $143 million to increase its stake in G3 Global Grain Group, a joint venture with Bunge Canada that purchased a 50.1 percent stake in the Canadian Wheat Board for C$250 million ($195.8 million; €159.5 million) in 2015.

Prior to joining COFCO in 2015, Jansen served as a company vice-president and president of the grain unit of Chicago-headquartered food processing company Archer Daniels Midland. Jansen joined ADM in 1989 and held management positions in the US, Europe and Brazil.

An executive recruiter active in agribusiness told Agri Investor that while their firm was not directly involved in SALIC’s chief executive search, it has been involved in other recent searches for Saudi companies looking for to fill leadership positions in crop and animal sector projects located in North America, Europe and Latin America.

“We frequently have an active project with organizations from that country,” the recruiter said.

The recruiter added that they know Jansen personally and are not surprised by his decision to accept the chief executive role at SALIC.

“Matt is a top-drawer fellow and a clear thinker,” the  recruiter said. “I would describe a clear thinker as someone who is ruthlessly objective, in a positive sense, about what the differing goals are and what it costs to achieve them.”

State-owned investment groups, according to the recruiter, often aim to balance desire for a return on investment with “other goals.”

“Private sector executives are wary of working for government-owned entities, but that is not specific to any country, that is a universal truth,” the recruiter said.

The global market for senior-level ag executives, according to the recruiter, is an open one, so compensation for top talent is unlikely to vary too widely between publicly-traded, private equity and state-backed firms.