October 25, 2018 / 2:15 PM / a year ago

UPDATE 1-COFCO International's CEO to add chairman role at grain trader

(Adds detail, source on CEO role)

PARIS, Oct 25 (Reuters) - COFCO International Ltd, the overseas trading arm of China’s state-owned food group COFCO Corp, has appointed Chief Executive Jingtao (Johnny) Chi to the additional role of chairman, it said on Thursday, a move that raised the possibility of him being replaced as CEO.

Chi succeeds Xubo (Patrick) Yu, who will remain on COFCO International’s board but focus more on his role as president of COFCO Corp., COFCO International said in a statement.

Chi will continue to be based in Geneva at COFCO International’s headquarters, the company added.

Chi has led the integration of Rotterdam-based grain trader Nidera and the agribusiness of Singapore-listed Noble Group , acquisitions that turned COFCO into a large player in global sourcing of crops such as grains and oilseeds, notably in South America.

COFCO International had sales of $34 billion last year and handled over 100 million tonnes of commodities. Chi has said the firm wants to expand sourcing directly from farmers and reduce its reliance on buying from other trading houses.

According to an earlier Bloomberg report, Chi is to be replaced as chief executive by Dong Wei, chairman of China Agri-Industries Holdings Ltd, another subsidiary of COFCO Corp.

A source familiar with the matter said Dong Wei was among possible candidates being considered to succeed Chi as CEO, but no decision had been made and there was no clear timetable.

The chairman change and possible CEO succession were a sign of COFCO Corp. Chairman Lu Jun, who was appointed in July, putting his mark on the group, the source added.

A COFCO International spokesman said no leadership changes had been made except for the chairman role, declining to comment further.

As well as integrating its overseas acquisitions under the aegis of COFCO International, COFCO has also been adapting to a trade dispute with the United States, which has disrupted massive flows of U.S. soybeans to China.

Outgoing COFCO International Chairman Patrick Yu told state media in July that China could reduce its reliance on imports of U.S. soy through increased shipments from South America and imports of alternative products.

COFCO has also been streamlining businesses as part of wider reforms of Chinese state-owned companies.

Chi told the Financial Times last year that a stock market listing remained an objective for COFCO International and that this would be done after combining it with some of COFCO’s domestic operations.

Reporting by Gus Trompiz, additional reporting by Hallie Gu in Beijing Editing by GV De Clercq and David Evans

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