Multinational food processing and retailing company Associated British Foods swallowed SA’s biggest sugar industry player, Illovo, in May last year. The move by the British group (which, as it happens, owns cheap ’n chic Primark) was part of a scramble for sub-Saharan African agricultural assets. Crookes Brothers, another JSE-listed player now stands out as another highly attractive potential target. The stage for an eventual acquisition of Crookes could already be set thanks to the involvement of African agriculture-focused UK private equity firm SilverStreet Capital as the key shareholder through its Silverlands (SA) Plantations investment vehicle. As with all private equity firms, SilverStreet will exit at some point. SilverStreet’s involvement began in 2013 when it acquired Rand Merchant Bank’s 33.1% stake in Crookes. SilverStreet followed this in June 2015 when it upped its stake to 45% through a R215m claw-back issue of new ordinary shares. The issue was pitched at R80/share, ...

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