(Updates with background on Smits, comments from executives)
By P.J. Huffstutter
Oct 30 (Reuters) - Cargill Inc said on Tuesday that David Dines, the head of its risk management business, would replace Chief Financial Officer Marcel Smits on Dec. 1 as part of a handful of changes in the grain trader's executive team.
The company said Smits will be moving into a new role as the head of Cargill Asia Pacific - a region that Cargill says is a key focus of its growth going forward.
The shifts mark the latest step in an overhaul of the 153-year-old company, whose business model now is betting on technology and agricultural innovation to stay ahead of global trade uncertainty, slowing demand in China and increased competition in emerging markets.
Dines currently serves as president of Cargill's risk management unit and also oversees the company's metals and shipping division.
After the Dec. 1 transition, the metals and shipping unit will report to Smits, as much of Cargill's metals business is Asia-based, the company told Reuters.
Smits helped Cargill Chairman and CEO David MacLennan spearhead the restructuring effort several years ago, as global agricultural companies were under pressure from slumping commodity prices and a global grain glut.
The company sold off its U.S. hog business to Brazilian meat packer JBS SA, and its energy and petroleum business to Australian investment bank Macquarie Group Ltd. It also consolidated some offices, spun off part of its hedge fund business, and sold some of its grain and crop retail assets in Canada.
Cargill is continuing to study its business portfolio to see if there are other assets that no longer fit and could be sold or spun off, MacLennan and Smits told Reuters in an interview earlier this year.
Meanwhile, Cargill has been expanding into aquaculture, plant-based protein production such as pea protein, and bolstering its investments in beef and poultry production, particularly in Latin America.
The executives also said Cargill is investing in and adopting new technology in order to streamline processes, manage trading risks and cut costs.
Cargill is among four companies that dominate the flow of agricultural goods around the world, competing against rivals Archer Daniels Midland Co, Bunge Ltd and Louis Dreyfus Corp.
Last week, the four companies announced they are working together to standardize and digitize international grain trades using technologies such as blockchain and artificial intelligence. (Reporting by P.J. Huffstutter in Chicago, and Laharee Chatterjee in Bengaluru Editing by Patrick Graham and Paul Simao)