Financial daily Børsen reports that the Gansu Yasheng group, a Chinese agricultural and chemical conglomerate, is close to acquiring Aarhus United, with negotiations in the final stages, and expected to close by the end of April.
The Borsen news piece claims it acquired confirmation of the sale from Zhou Changsheng, chairman of the Gansu Yasheng group.
When asked by FoodNavigator.com today about the deal, Aarhus declined to comment. "This is virtually out of our hands, because it is our majority shareholder [United International Enterprises Limited] selling its stake," commented the spokesperson.
The future of Aarhus has been under some uncertainty for several months, since UIE first announced in October 2004 that it would divest its 45.6 per cent chunk of Aarhus United by January 2005.
UIE cited a potential difference in long-term investment interests as the motivation for the stake sell-off, claiming a new partner might better serve Aarhus.
But "identifying a suitable buyer" has proved to be longer than expected, with Aarhus recently announcing the sale was longer "than anticipated".
Industry rumours had previously hinted that Swedish fats firm Karlshmans could be interested in picking up the UIE slice. But competition continues to bite for the firm, that announced in December it would pour €6.68 million (SEK60m) into cost-cutting measures. A move that followed swiftly on from some 50 job cuts in October.
In addition to UIE, a pension fund owns over 10 per cent of cocoa butter replacer Aarhus, and a further fund has 5 per cent, while private investors make up the remaining approximate 40 per cent.