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Viterra declines comment on possible play for GrainCorp

Mayo Schmidt, president and CEO of Viterra.

John Woods/The Canadain Press/John Woods/ The Canadian Press

The chief executive officer of grain handler Viterra declined to comment Wednesday on his company's possible interest in acquiring GrainCorp, a leading Australian grain handler that market watchers see as a takeover target.

However, CEO Mayo Schmidt, responding to a question at the BMO Nesbitt Burns farm investor conference in New York, noted that Australia's grain industry is in consolidation mode and Viterra plans to be a player.

Viterra's priority markets for growth are Canada, the United States and Australia, he said, and it is also eyeing the Black Sea region and China.

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"It's a rich environment for opportunities that we see over the next 10 years," Mr. Schmidt said. "And we're uniquely positioned because of seed, chemical, fertilizer, collection systems and processing so we have opportunities in any of those segments to enter and consolidate a market."

The company's current priority is integrating businesses it has already acquired, he said.

GrainCorp also declined comment on Wednesday about a report in The Australian newspaper that it had received interest from offshore rivals.

Viterra already holds the dominant grain-handling position in South Australia after taking over ABB Grain in 2009.

Mr. Schmidt also said that plans by Canada's Conservative government to scrap the Canadian Wheat Board's marketing monopoly on western wheat and barley would likely accelerate improvements to the country's grain transportation system.

"Obviously, change brings more change, so that certainly may accelerate that change in creating greater efficiencies in that system," he said.

"We think there's a lot that can be brought to the Canadian logistics and transportation system and that's an area of deep expertise in our company - we just need a little more flexibility."

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