TOKYO/NEW YORK, May 29 (Reuters) - Japanese trading house Marubeni Corp is closing in on a deal for U.S. grains merchant Gavilon and could announce the acquisition as early as Tuesday afternoon in Tokyo, two people with direct knowledge of the situation said.
Marubeni, Japan’s fifth-largest trading company, has been in advanced talks to buy Gavilon since earlier this month. The Japanese company has confirmed its interest in Gavilon but said no decision had been made.
Although the deal is pending final approval, the proposed terms value Gavilon at more than $5 billion including debt, and Marubeni has lined up financing, said one of the sources, who asked not to be named since the deal has not been announced.
A valuation near that level would be in line with the proposed terms the two sides have been discussion since early May, according to people involved in the talks.
Representatives of Marubeni and Gavilon could not be immediately reached for a comment.
Marubeni had earlier dispatched a team of auditors to Gavilon’s Omaha, Nebraska, headquarters to review its operations and finances, sources have said.
In addition, Marubeni President Teruo Asada traveled to New York last week with other executives as discussion of the deal reached the final stages, a person familiar with the trip said.
Obtaining Gavilon would deepen Marubeni’s control of grain supplies from North America, the world’s top grain export hub.
A deal could also help Marubeni challenge Archer Daniels Midland as the biggest supplier of U.S. grains and oilseeds to China.
Gavilon, whose owners include George Soros and hedge fund manager Dwight Anderson, has the third-largest U.S. grains marketing network behind ADM and Cargill.
Gavilon also has a large footprint in the U.S. fertilizer market, an energy operation that includes 7 million barrels of crude oil storage and a oil, grain and ethanol trading unit.
Marubeni plans to announce the Gavilon deal as early as Tuesday afternoon Japan time, sources said.
Morgan Stanley is advising Gavilon on the transaction, while Nomura is advising Marubeni, people involved in the discussions have said.
Marubeni’s rival trading houses Mitsui & Co and Mitsubishi Corp had both been seen as potential bidders for Gavilon but decided not to pursue a deal.