BEIJING/LONDON, March 3 (Reuters) - COFCO Agri, the Swiss-based international grain arm of China’s state run COFCO group, is bringing over up to 20 staff, including traders, to boost operations in Europe in a further shake-up of the business, sources familiar with the matter said.
COFCO has embarked on an expansion into international grain trading, having invested over $3 billion to buy Noble Group’s agribusiness and also Dutch grain trader Nidera, giving it assets in some of the world’s top grain and vegetable oil producing regions.
Sources said COFCO Agri is planning to bring between 10 to 20 specialists – some of them senior traders – from other parts of the world, but primarily China, to work mainly in their Swiss office, pending work visas being approved.
The sources said these included Fan Zhenyu, head of corn trading at COFCO, as well as Sara Pan, who is currently deputy general manager of COFCO’s wheat division. It was unclear whether another senior corn trader, Philip Xu, would join Nidera’s office in Rotterdam.
COFCO did not respond to requests for comment, a COFCO Agri spokesman said the company had no comment. Fan separately declined to comment, while Xu and Pan could not be reached for comment.
Sources said the idea was part of the integration of COFCO’s global business enabling many of their China-based team to get more exposure to the international business.
In January, an internal memo and sources said COFCO Agri had appointed senior new management, which followed the announcement earlier that month that its chief executive, Matt Jansen, had resigned.
Since first investing in Nidera in 2014, COFCO has had several setbacks.
COFCO group said this week it had completed the takeover of Nidera and Dierk Overheu will step down from his position as CEO of Nidera as the deal closes. COFCO International CEO Johnny Chi will lead the merged companies.
In recent weeks, Nidera hired former veteran traders who had worked in the past for Toepfer to take senior roles. Toepfer was integrated into agribusiness group Archer Daniels Midland Co in 2014.
Global commodities traders have had a difficult year, with bumper crops in major growing nations such as the United States, pressuring prices of corn and soybeans and intensifying competition among merchants – all of whom are looking for a way to boost profitability. (Additional reporting by Gus Trompiz in Paris; Editing by Veronica Brown and Susan Thomas)