Cofco Corp., China’s largest food company, poached a senior executive from U.S. competitor Archer-Daniels- Midland Co. to lead its push into global agricultural trading.
The Beijing-based group hired Matthew Jansen as chief executive officer of Noble Agri Ltd., the venture Cofco formed after buying the agricultural arm of Hong Kong-based Noble Group Ltd., Noble Agri said Tuesday in a statement.
Cofco spent $3.5 billion last year to build a worldwide grain-trading business, acquiring 51 percent stakes in the Noble unit and Dutch trader Nidera BV. Both have large operations in Latin America and eastern Europe, two key exporting regions for wheat, corn and soybeans.
The Noble Agri venture will allow state-run Cofco to compete with the biggest grain traders -- Archer-Daniels- Midland, or ADM, Bunge Ltd., Cargill Inc. and Louis Dreyfus Commodities BV -- as rising incomes drive up food demand in China. Swiss rival Glencore Plc is also expanding into buying and selling cereals.
ADM said Tuesday that Jansen left to “pursue an opportunity with another company.” The 48-year-old executive, who holds a degree in agricultural economics, had responsibility for ADM’s global oilseeds unit, one of the largest in the world. He was also the trading house’s chief risk officer and a corporate vice president, according to Noble Agri’s statement.
“Matt brings with him the depth of knowledge and broad business experience gained through his years’ career in the highly competitive global agribusiness,” Frank Ning, chairman of Cofco and Noble Agri, said in the statement. “He is ideally suited to drive the future growth of Noble Agri.”
The hiring will allow Yusuf Alireza, Noble Group’s chief executive officer, to focus on his primary role after spending more than a year running the agricultural trading unit. His company has come under attack in recent months from short- sellers and researchers who questioned its accounting. Noble has rejected all allegations of impropriety.
Jansen is at least the second senior executive from a U.S. grain trader to join an agricultural commodity company in the Asia-Pacific region in the past year. Mark Palmquist, who was with co-operative CHS Inc., became CEO of Australia’s Graincorp Ltd. in October.