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Viterra in "exclusive" talks with unnamed suitor

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Grain handling firm Viterra (TSE:VT) said Monday that it was in exclusive talks with a potential buyer of the company.

Viterra confirmed last week that it had established an auction process and acknowledged reports that said offers would need to bid at least $16 per share.

"Viterra confirms that it has begun exclusive negotiations with a party and the basis of this exclusive negotiation is at a price which is consistent with our previous statement," the company said in a statement.

However, Viterra again cautioned that there was no guarantee of any eventual takeover deal.

Before the company revealed the takeover interest last week, Viterra stock was trading at about $11 share on the Toronto Stock Exchange. On Monday, shares were down 15 cents or one per cent at $16.06 after having been halted pending news.

Several names have been mentioned as possible bidders including US agribusiness Cargill and Swiss commodities trader Glencore (LON:GLEN) as well as Canadian rival Agrium (TSE:AGU).

The potential bids come as the company is poised to benefit from the end of the Canadian Wheat Board's monopoly on the marketing of wheat and barley in Western Canada.

Viterra, formed by the merger of the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool and Agricore United, is a grain handler, marketer and food processor with operations across Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand and China.

A foreign takeover of Viterra would face a review under the Investment Canada Act to see if it would be of "net benefit" to Canada.

Alberta Investment Management Corp. is Viterra's largest shareholder with a roughly 16 per cent stake or about 60 million shares.

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TSX:VT
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