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Glencore bidding for grain handler Viterra: report

(Reuters) - Commodities and mining giant Glencore has made a 3.5 billion pound (US$5.5 billion) approach for Canada's biggest grain handler Viterra, Britain's Sunday Telegraph newspaper said on its website on Saturday.

The London-based paper did not cite sources, but said it understood that Glencore had made an approach to Viterra, which triggered a statement by Viterra on Friday that it had received expressions of interest from third parties.

Shares of Viterra spiked 24 percent in Toronto on Friday after a brief trading halt, during which the company disclosed interest from parties it did not name. Viterra's market cap soared to more than C$5 billion (US$5.05 billion) with the stock surge.

Viterra is one of three big grain handlers in Canada - along with privately held Richardson International Limited and Cargill - and the only one that is publicly traded. Interest in the company comes as the Canadian government moves to eliminate the Canadian Wheat Board's 69-year-old wheat and barley marketing monopoly in Western Canada on August 1, 2012.

That change will eventually add C$40 million to C$50 million to Viterra's annual earnings, the company has said, as it can buy wheat and barley directly from farmers for the first time.

Canada is the leading exporter of spring wheat, durum, canola and oats.

Viterra also owns grain handling assets in South Australia.

Viterra representatives did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Reuters.

A Glencore spokesman declined to comment, according to the Telegraph.

Glencore is also attempting a $36 billion merger with mining group Xstrata, and has expressed interest in buying U.S. energy and grains trader Gavilon Group, according to a source familiar with the matter.

($1=$0.99 Canadian)

(Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg; editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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