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July 19, 2013

PE/VC Firms vie with Middle East Investors for piece of Indian Agri-Businesses

Agri-Biz Investments rise 75% in first 6 months of 2013  

Last week, publicly listed packaged rice exporter Kohinoor Foods agreed to sell a 20% stake for almost Rs.113 crores ($18.8 million) to Al Dahra Holdings, an Abu Dhabi-based investment firm which makes investments around the world to secure food supplies to the UAE. Kohinoor has also entered into a joint venture with the investor to develop and manage a rice processing and storage facility in Abu Dhabi. The JV will source a minimum of 25,000 MT of basmati rice per year from Kohinoor.

In March 2013, Qatar-based Hassad Food had acquired a 69% stake another rice exporter - Bush Foods Overseas - for $135 million. The deal fetched Bush Food's investor, StanChart Private Equity - the winner of the Best Private Equity Investor of the Year Award at the Venture Intelligence APEX'13 Awards in February - a 2.5 times return on Rs.110 crore ($24.4 million) investment it had made in April 2011, according to the Venture Intelligence Private Equity Deals Database.

The rising appetite for Indian Agri-Business companies among overseas investors also seems to have catalyzed Private Equity and Venture Capital firms in the country to pay more attention to the industry. During the first fix months of 2013, PE/VC investors have written cheques for $126 million to pick up stakes in nine Indian Agri-Business companies  - a 75% increase over the $72 million (invested across six companies) during the same period last year, data from the Venture Intelligence Private Equity Deals Database shows. Multiples Private Equity wrote the largest of these cheques, picking up a 50% stake in Bangalore-based Agri Equipment firm Milltec Group for Rs.250 crore ($43.24 million). Milltec is engaged in the development of technology and machinery for rice milling, roller flour milling, maize (corn) milling and agro processing plants.

Another buyouts focused PE firm, India Value Fund, has committed $40 million to pick up a majority stake in Kochi-based spices firm VKL Seasoning. VKL, a spin out from the Vallabhdas Kanji Group, provides seasonings and flavors to customers - typically Quick Service Restaurants (QSR) - in India, the Middle East and Africa. "(India Value Fund) invested in VKL based on expectations of robust growth in the underlying QSR and processed foods industries and strong positioning of the company to expand within existing customer segments," the firm says of the investment rationale.

Apart from Private Equity buyouts, the latest quarter (ending June 2013) also witnessed Venture Capital funds and specialist agri-business focused funds stepping up their investment activity in Agri-Businesses. So much so that Agri-Business tied with Healthcare as the second favorite industry among VCs based on the number of investments (after Information Technology companies) during the period. The Agri-Business focused Omnivore Partners announced two new investments in the latest quarter: in pork products firm Arohan Foods and fly trap maker Barrix Agro Sciences. Two other companies in the industry that attracted VC investors during the period included Khyati Foods (focused on Soybeans, Oilseeds, Spices) from SEAF and Sarona Asset Management and Lawrencedale Agroprocessing (focused on Agri Logistics) from Aspada Investments.

At Venture Intelligence, as providers of data and analysis on Private Company Financials, Transactions and their Valuations, we will be watching whether the rising appetite - among both Private Equity and Strategic Investors - for Indian Agriculture sustains in the quarters ahead. A great way for you to keep track of the deals in Agri-Business and other industries would be to subscribe to the FREE Weekly edition of the Venture Intelligence Deal Digest, India's First & Most Exhaustive Transactions Newsletter. Click Here to view more information on our various information products and also sign up for Free Deal Digest Weekly newsletters.