NEW YORK (AP) -- Agriculture heavyweight Bunge Ltd. will buy Corn Products International Inc. in a stock deal worth about $4.4 billion, the company said Monday.
Two of the nation's oldest agricultural businesses would become one in the deal, in which Bunge would also assume $414 million of Corn Products' debt.
The buyout will combine Corn Products' sweeteners, starches and other ingredients with Bunge's portfolio of agribusiness, fertilizer, edible oil and milling products.
The global market for starches and sweeteners alone is growing at approximately 5 percent each year, and Corn Products has some of the biggest beer and food makers in the world as clients.
Corn Products shareholders will get Bunge stock worth $56 for each Corn Products share under terms of the deal, a 31 percent premium to Corn Products' closing share price of $42.90 on Friday.
The deal has been approved by the boards of both companies, and is expected to close in the fourth quarter subject to approval by regulators and shareholders of both companies.
Once the deal closes, Corn Products stockholders will own about 21 percent of the enlarged Bunge.
''Combining with Corn Products provides a unique opportunity for Bunge to establish an integrated, global presence in the corn value chain, which is highly complementary to our existing operations,'' Alberto Weisser, Bunge Limited's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, said in a statement.
''Corn Products is the leading pure-play franchise in corn refining and will add higher-margin starch and sweetener products to Bunge's product portfolio, expand our operations in important growth markets, and diversify our revenue stream with a solid cash flow business.''
Sam Scott, Chairman, president and chief executive officer of Corn Products International, said in a statement that he is excited by merger.
''It represents a terrific opportunity to create value for our stockholders, enhance opportunities for our employees and provide benefits to our global partners and customers,'' Scott said. ''Our stockholders will have an ongoing equity interest in a combined company that is well-positioned to serve customers around the world with a broad product portfolio, integrated distribution network and innovative products.''
Bunge, founded in 1818 and headquartered in White Plains, N.Y., has more than 25,000 employees in more than 30 countries
Corn Products will maintain its operational headquarters in the Chicago suburb of Westchester, Ill. It has operations in 15 countries at 34 plants, including wholly owned businesses, affiliates and alliances.