US private equity giant Blackstone has joined forces with China National BlueStar to bid nearly US$4 billion for Australian agro-chemical firm Nufarm, the Financial Times reported yesterday.
Blackstone and the Chinese chemical maker, in which it holds a 20 percent stake, last month expressed an interest in buying Nufarm for about US$2.7 billion but were rebuffed, the newspaper said.
"BlueStar and Blackstone [still] want to do a deal if they can," the paper cited a source close to the negotiations as saying, adding that the new deal values Nufarm at nearly US$4 billion.
However, Israel's Makhteshim Agan is believed to be preparing a counter-bid, analysts said.
The latest offer underlines Blackstone's strengthening ties with China and is the first time a global private equity firm has teamed up with a mainland group in a major overseas bid.
China's state investment agency this year bought a roughly 10 percent stake in Blackstone, one of the largest independent asset managers in the world, for US$3 billion.
Global private equity funds have spent billions of dollars in recent years to acquire stakes around the globe, especially in China.
In turn, increasingly wealthy Chinese firms with global aspirations are turning to mergers and acquisitions to expand their markets overseas.
Trading in Nufarm remained suspended yesterday on the Australian stock exchange ahead of the outcome of the negotiations.
The shares were suspended after rising 13 percent to hit a high of A$15.60 (US$14.30) on Wednesday.