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Mitsubishi Buys Kirin’s Food Flavoring Unit for $321 Million

March 18 (Bloomberg) -- Mitsubishi Corp., Japan’s biggest trading house, will acquire Kirin Holdings Co.’s domestic food flavoring unit for 30.5 billion yen ($321 million) to expand in consumer businesses.

The trader agreed to buy 81 percent of Kirin Kyowa Foods Co. in June and the rest in January 2015, Tokyo-based Mitsubishi said in a statement. The deal will expand the range of businesses at Mitsubishi’s Life Sciences division. The unit, formed two years ago, focuses on seasoning, sweeteners and fermentation technology, the company said in the statement.

Kirin Kyowa is at least the third food investment by Mitsubishi in as many months as the trader leads domestic rivals including Mitsui & Co. in shifting focus to health care, utilities and nutrition to counter lower profits from selling bulk commodities such as coal and iron ore. Consumer goods rose to 12.4 percent of Mitsubishi’s profit last year, from 9.8 percent in the previous period.

“The global market for food ingredients and flavoring materials is said to be valued at $120 billion,” Mitsubishi said in the statement. Buoyed by Asia’s emerging economies that are improving living standards and putting pressure on food supply, there is an “increased demand for food products that are delicious and healthy from safe and secure sources.”

Taking over Kirin Kyowa from the Japanese beverages group will give Mitsubishi a company that supplies large-scale food processors and retail food chains with flavor enhancers such as yeast extracts, nucleotides and hydrolyzed proteins. The food sciences company has operations in Japan, Indonesia and China, according to the statement.

Mitsubishi, which owns 32 percent of Lawson Inc., Japan’s second-largest convenience store operator, has in the last two years invested in meat and livestock in China with Cofco Corp., entered the salmon-farming business in Chile and added grain collection and coffee plantations in Brazil.

The trader in December said it agreed to invest in a 3 billion-yen seafood venture in Thailand. In January, it made an offer to buy Japanese meat products retailer Yonekyu Corp.

To contact the reporter on this story: Yuriy Humber in Tokyo at yhumber@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jason Rogers at jrogers73@bloomberg.net

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