EU extends inquiry into Cargill's Degussa acquisition

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Cargill European commission

The European Commission has extended it inquiry into US ingredients
firm Cargill's acquisition of the food ingredients unit of German
chemical giant Degussa, it emerged today.

The extension, from November 30 to December 14, is a standard procedure that allows for the Commission to examine the deal in current market conditions.

Extensions occur if the companies involved submit remedies to mitigate competition concerns, said the Comission's Jonathan Todd, but would not reveal further details.

"The European Commission has added an extra two weeks to review the case. We have been using this additional time to provide additional information to the Commission and to explain why we do not consider that remedies are necessary in this case," said a spokesperson from Cargill.

The acquisition, announced in September, will enable the ambitious US firm - that posted sales of $71 billion last year - to carve out a stronger position as a one-stop supplier for food ingredients.

Cargill, the largest private firm in the US with over 120,000 employees, has agreed to pay US$670 million for the Degussa unit that posted sales of US$517 million in 2004.

"This will be our largest acquisition since Cerestar in 2002 and supports our strategy of becoming the recognized global leader in providing food and beverage companies with innovative solutions that help them succeed," said Warren Staley, Cargill chairman and chief executive officer.

The Degussa unit supplies flavors, texturants and bioactive units under its performance materials division. Flavoring systems target the food, dairy and beverage markets while the texturant arm supplies formulations based on hydrocolloids, blends and lecithins.

Of particular note, the acquisition includes Degussa's strong pectin position, and so fits snugly next to Cargill's recent purchase of pectin supplier Citrico.

In July this year Cargill entered the attractive pectin market for the first time, leapfrogging into a leading position, alongside players Danisco, Herbstreith & Fox, Degussa and JM Huber in a market demanding in excess of 30,000 tons annually.

At the time, optimistic observers claimed Cargill's entry may not have had a real impact on current business, because the production they took over is already available in the market.

Indeed, they believed that as a stable player, Cargill could be good for the market.

But with Degussa's facilities piled onto the 4,500 metric ton capacity of Citrico, this view may change.

With a stronger market position comes the enviable power to undercut competitor prices.

The Degussa acquisition will also considerably strengthen Cargill's bargaining power in the field of lecithins and flavours. In 2004 Cargill acquired UK flavours firm Duckworth Flavours.

Citing insufficient leverage to match the performance of larger commercial players, at the end of 2004 Degussa, Germany's third largest chemical company, announced plans to divest the food ingredients arm of its business.

The 2000 people-strong ingredients unit contributed just 4 per cent to Degussa's overall €11.2 billion ($13bn) sales figure.

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