American agribusiness and food giants Cargill and Bunge are rumored to be considering a takeover of Deoleo, the world’s biggest olive oil distributor.

Spanish financial newspaper El Economista sparked the speculation this week with claims Cargill and Bunge had each been evaluating a possible bid for the Madrid-based company.

Citing insider sources, the paper said for several weeks the firms had been “analyzing Deoleo’s accounts and Spain’s olive oil market.”

But in a statement to the CNMV, the agency that supervises the Spanish stock market, Deoleo said it was not currently in contact with any party about the possibility of them taking a major stake in the company.And Minnesota-based Cargill said its policy was not to comment on rumours or speculation. “At any one time, Cargill is assessing a number of initiatives to progress its business strategy. It is our policy that we will communicate as and when there is something definitive,” it said.

New York-based Bunge has yet to respond to a request for comment.

Deoleo (formerly Grupo SOS) markets the brands Bertolli and Carapelli in the United States. Its big stable of brands also includes Carbonell, the world’s most widely sold olive oil.

Various Spanish banks are said to want to shed their stakes in Deoleo. Among them are major shareholder Bankia, which holds over 18 per cent of the company, and Caixabank, with nearly 6 per cent.

Combined with the stock of other Spanish lenders, a total of at least about a third of Deoleo is believed to be up for grabs. This is significant because under Spanish law, companies must keep their stake in a company to less than 30 percent or launch a full takeover bid.

El Economista said Bunge had some months ago stated an intention to expand its currently small presence in the olive oil sector but its sources saw Cargill as the company with most possibilities as a potential Deoleo buyer.

It noted Cargill already had links with the Malaga-based Hojiblanca Cooperative Group – the world’s biggest producer of extra virgin olive oil – through their joint ownership of the Mercaóleo olive oil bottling plant near Malaga. Hojiblanca itself holds about a 10 percent stake in Deoleo.

Deoleo’s September 26 statement to the CNMV, the agency overseeing the Spanish stock market:{7f117795-538a-4beb-b0fe-2b59d063d429}

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