Sofiproteol Plans to Split Investment Arm From Industrial Assets

Sofiproteol SA, France’s largest oilseed crusher and Europe’s largest biodiesel producer, plans to split its investment arm from the company’s industrial assets in a bid to simplify its structure and improve access to capital.

The investment unit will be owned by a holding company for the industrial assets and Sofiproteol shareholders, including French banks Credit Agricole SA and Natixis, Chief Executive Officer Jean-Philippe Puig said at a presentation in Paris.

Puig announced the new structure at a meeting this evening celebrating the company’s 30th anniversary, without providing a timetable for the change. “We’ll have a lot more clarity.”

Sofiproteol was created in 1983 by France’s federation of oilseed and protein producers, or FOP, together with industrial organizations Unip and Onidol, with the goal of adding value to the country’s agricultural production. France is Europe’s largest producer of rapeseed.

Sofiproteol’s fund business has investments in about 140 farm and food companies through equity stakes and loans, ranging from dairy processors to a satellite-data company.

The industrial assets, which generated 2012 sales of 7.3 billion euros ($9.9 billion), will remain together, with the legal structure changing to a partnership limited by shares from a public limited company, Catherine Bozon, Sofiproteol spokeswoman, said in an interview after Puig’s presentation.

The industrial holding will be owned by FOP through a company that will act as the general partner, as well as by Fidop, a French development fund for the oilseed and protein sector, and a foundation, according to Bozon.

Sofiproteol’s shareholders include Fidop with a 27.5 percent stake, FOP with 15.1 percent, Credit Agricole with a 13.2 percent holding, Unip and Onidol with 11.2 percent each and Natixis with a 9.8 percent stake, according to the company’s website.

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