Cargill went shopping for China assets on Jack Ma’s auction site

CHICAGO • Taobao, China’s answer to, sells everything from groceries to clothes to knickknacks — and more recently has also become a platform for the top food trader to make a strategic expansion.

Cargill Inc, the agribusiness giant that’s also America’s largest privately-held company, won a judicial auction to buy a soybean processing plant on Alibaba Group Holding Ltd’s Taobao website, China’s top e-commerce platform said in a statement.

The winning bid for the assets of Shandong Xinliang Oils & Fats Co Ltd was for 421 million yuan (RM252.6 million) and is subject to approval by the local court, an online confirmation letter showed.

Taobao’s court auction platform, which was established in 2012, is a trove of assets from cities across China, with real estate, industrial equipment and vehicles — in various states of repair — up for auction. Taobao, which translates roughly as “digging for treasure”, also auctions off bad loans from Chinese companies.

The Cargill acquisition comes less than a year after the trader bought a 34% stake it didn’t already own in Hebei Jiahao Grain and Oilseeds Co Ltd, another soybean processing plant in China, from its joint-venture partner. At the time, the company said it was committed to long-term development in the Asian nation.

Cargill’s purchase includes the right to use the land, housing properties, machines and other items owned by the Chinese crusher, which is based in the eastern Chinese province of Shandong, a court document posted on the Taobao website showed, without providing details about the plant’s processing capacity. Earlier, a spokesman for the Minneapolis-based trader confirmed the acquisition by email.

The acquisitions are boosting Car- gill’s footprint in the world’s top soybean importer, which come at a time demand for soybean meal, a key ingredient in animal feed, is on the rise. The hog herd in top pork consumer China is recovering faster than analysts expected, increasing demand for feed. — Bloomberg