ADM is only bidder for Greencore

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The Independent Online
AS THE Irish government's placing of a stake in Irish Life was completed, Bertie Ahern, the finance minister, said Archer Daniels Midland, the giant US food group, was the only purchaser prepared to buy all of the government's 30 per cent stake in Greencore, the former state sugar company, writes John Murray.

Mr Ahern invited offers for the stake after the Labour Party, the junior partner in the ruling coalition, protested that Irish companies should be allowed to bid. Greencore had introduced ADM to the government and was keen on the strategic benefits of a link-up with the US company. The deadline for offers for the stake was 24 March.

It is understood the government had earlier rejected an offer from ADM for 25 per cent of the company.

Irish Life indicated it would pay 260p a share for a portion of the stake, but that was understood to reflect the insurer's desire not to be underweight in the stock.

Mr Ahern told Irish radio that if the government stake was not sold to ADM it would be offered to institutions. 'I am convinced Greencore needs a (strategic) partner,' he said. 'The only partner on offer is ADM.'

But Jim Kemmy, an Irish MP and chairman of the Labour Party, urged Mr Ahern to take advantage of the rise in the Irish Life stake's value to retain the government stake in Greencore, ensuring future dividend income for the Exchequer while observing current fiscal limits.

He hinted that ADM might now have to raise its reported Ir pounds 65m offer for the state's holding.

Greencore shares are 315p, against 238p in February. 'That will be a matter for discussion with our brokers,' Mr Ahern said.