Goldman Sachs pays US$300m for poultry farms

Goldman Sachs, a United States-based private equity investment firm, recently acquired full control of more than 10 poultry farms on the mainland for as much as US$300 million, establishing a presence in the mainland livestock industry, according to a mainland media report yesterday.

In the face of the global food price crisis, the investment move sparked concerns, especially after trade talks under the World Trade Organisation collapsed last week as the issue of agriculture once again became the sticking point.

Investor Jim Rogers, who is well known for profiting in commodities, said the most valuable investments on the mainland are agricultural products.

The China Business yesterday reported that Goldman Sachs had recently acquired more than 10 poultry farms in Hunan and Fujian provinces.

Quoting an unidentified source, the newspaper said Goldman Sachs had bought the farms outright but was not involved in daily operations, which are outsourced to third parties. The banker only maintained control of the livestock price.

A Goldman Sachs spokesman could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The news came as the People's Bank of China raised commercial banks' loan allocations by 5 per cent to boost capital flows to lower-rung workers and farmers of the world's fourth-biggest economy.

Goldman Sachs already holds a 13 per cent stake in Hong Kong-listed China Yurun Food Group, a mainland meat products manufacturer. Goldman Sachs also owns 60 per cent of Shanghai-listed Shuanghui Investment and Development, which competes with China Yurun in the retail packet meat market.

'As Goldman Sachs has already invested in meat processing and branding, it is a natural move for the firm to invest in upstream poultry farms,' said Jiang Hua, chief capital operating officer at investment firm Shanghai Homeby Group.

Deutsche Bank is also looking into the mainland livestock industry, and is in negotiations to invest in a farm rearing 150,000 pigs in Shanghai with a target investment of US$60 million for a 30 per cent stake.

Deutsche Bank was eyeing Tianjin Baodi Agri and Tech, according to the mainland report.

'International private equity companies are able to control the prices of commodities such as corn and soybeans, which are ingredients of pig feed,' said Gu Qinhua, a mainland veteran private equity firm official.

'They can also participate in the downstream poultry and livestock industry for profit,' he said.