Wrightson to sell seeds unit for $439M to Danish co-op; may distribute cash

Updated

Wrightson to sell seeds unit for $439M to Danish co-op. Photo: Lynn Grieveson

Shares in PGG Wrightson jumped as much as 9.4 percent after the country's largest rural services business said it had agreed to sell its seed and grain business to Danish cooperative DLF Seeds for $421 million in cash and $18 of debt repayment, and signalled it may return up to $292 million to its shareholders.

The sale is above the $285 million book value of the seeds business and follows several expressions of interest received from international parties as part of a strategic review underway with Credit Suisse (Australia) and First NZ Capital. The Christchurch-based company expects to have a net cash balance of about $270 million following the sale and could distribute as much as $292 million to shareholders.

PGG Wrightson shares rose as much as 6 cents to a seven-week high of 70 cents, and recently traded up 6.3 percent to 68 cents, valuing the company at $490 million.

"It's a very good price given it is well in excess of the book value of their seeds business and I think also there is going to be a rather large capital distribution made back to shareholders," said Hamilton Hindin Greene director Grant Williamson. "It's going to be a much smaller business going forward. They are going to change their focus somewhat and become more focused on the livestock side of the business. The jewel in the crown is getting sold to some degree."

The seed and grain unit is the largest of PGG Wrightson's three core businesses, generating more than half of its operating earnings in the last financial year from across New Zealand, Australia and South America. For PGG Wrightson, the sale frees up cash for debt reduction, distribution to shareholders and strategic growth opportunities while retaining access to the seeds business through a long-term distribution agreement as well as ongoing royalty payments from a larger business.

Meanwhile, for DLF Seeds, the acquisition gives the Northern Hemisphere-based business access to the leading temperate forage seed operation in the Southern Hemisphere to create a strong global offering for customers.

"The agreement represents a transaction that would deliver significant value to PGW while also enabling the PGW Seeds business to benefit immensely from being part of an impressive global seeds operation," PGG Wrightson deputy chair Trevor Burt said in a statement. "The DLF Seeds offer was particularly compelling in terms of the value it would deliver to PGW shareholders."

The deal is subject to several conditions, including approvals from shareholders, New Zealand's Overseas Investment Office, antitrust regulators in New Zealand, Australia and South America, consent from PGW Seeds' joint venture partners and PGG Wrightson's banking syndicate.

The PGG Wrightson board unanimously supported the conditional agreement, which chair Trevor Burt said was "very attractive".

The board has engaged KordaMentha to prepare an independent appraisal report on the merits of the transaction for the company's shareholders, ahead of a meeting and vote expected in October.

PGG Wrightson's shares, which are 50.2 percent owned by Asia's Agria Corp, have gained 6.2 percent over the past year.