This week, Mike van Dulken and Augustin Eden from Accendo Markets explain why Glencore is still keen on the agriculture sector despite selling off its business…
Deleveraging in the mining sector continues, with Glencore managing to offload 40 per cent of its agricultural business to Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB). But Glencore’s situation is rather different from that of sector peer Anglo American, which we discussed a while back.
Glencore struggled through the latter part of 2015 with a massive debt burden, the result of huge over-investment just around the time when commodity prices began turning over, and its shares were part of a group that weighed heavily on the FTSE 100 index last year.
While we’ve seen action taken by the blue chip miner to reduce its debt load before now, the partial sale of its agricultural arm is an indication that there are indeed buyers for mining assets. Sure, the $2.5bn price tag fell short of analysts’ expectations, but it was bang on Glencore’s guidance and has put some much-needed funds into the coffers, which the company says it will use to… expand its agricultural assets. Wait a minute. Glencore is selling part of its agricultural business in order to buy other agricultural businesses? Mad as it sounds, that seems to be correct.
Glencore is currently – despite this deal – a major exporter of grains in Russia, Canada and Australia. It shifted around 44 million tonnes of the stuff in 2015 but saw profits cut in half by an oversupplied and stagnating market. So what Glencore may be engaged in here is a clever marketing ploy – those being somewhat of a speciality of the commodity trading giant. It clearly still sees value in agricultural commodities, otherwise it wouldn’t be looking at South America and Brazil (the world’s #1 soy bean exporter) for potential acquisitions in that sector, right?
The other market in which Glencore lacks a big footprint is the US, and understandably so – the strength of the dollar making US exports less competitive means it’s not a priority right now. But what about the outlook for US monetary policy? If the Fed continues to be dovish – stamping down the hawkish dissenters – then the outlook for the dollar would be bearish, which would strengthen the Canadian Dollar and make Canadian exports less competitive. While Glencore shouldn’t and probably isn’t making a call based on FX forecasts, isn’t it a little funny that it’s sold a 40 per cent stake in its agricultural business to the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board?!