Bunge Limited NYSE: BG (formerly Bunge International and prior to that Bunge Y Born) is a Bermudan food conglomerate with its headquarters in White Plains, New York. As well as being a leading global soybean exporter it is also involved in food processing, grain trading, and fertilizer. It competes with Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland.
Founded in 1818 by Johann Peter Gotlieb Bunge in Amsterdam, it was relocated to Antwerp by Edouard Bounge in 1859. Edouard's brother; Ernest Bunge, took the Bunge name to Argentina in 1884, and in 1905 the business extended to Brazil and later on to the USA.
A global company with European roots that date back to its founding in Amsterdam in 1818. European immigrants arriving in Argentina in the late 19th century took advantage of the newly created wheatlands. Two families joined forces to play a large role in the grain and oilseed business, initially in Argentina and then worldwide. The owning families expanded their business into industry in Argentina and Brazil, including textiles, paint, chemicals, fertilizer, banking and insurance. Throughout the early and mid-20th century they continued to be successful. In 1974, two third-generation family members, Jorge and Juan Born, were kidnapped by the Montoneros guerrilla group and recovered only after the payment of a $60m ransom.
The families became even more low profile. In 1989, Jorge Born, president of the company from 1987 (replacing Mario Hirsch), began working closely with the government of Carlos Menem. Bunge provided the government with its first two economy ministers. This intervention in politics upset the other shareholders and together with the company's lacklustre business performance, Born was ousted in 1991 and replaced by Octavio Caraballo.
The prior unity between the shareholders disintegrated as Caraballo struggled to modernize the company. Bizarrely the ousted Jorge Born has started working with one of his former kidnappers, Rodolfo Galimberti.
In 1994 the Bermuda-registered Bunge International was created as the main company in which the families had shares. There were around 180 shareholders – the main families were Hirsch, Bunge, Born, Engels and De La Tour. This replaced the older structure in which individual shareholders had stakes in all the different Bunge companies. Now only in Argentina does the Bunge y Born name still exist.
In 2001, Bunge went public. Through their three businesses - agribusiness, fertilizer and food products - they have established a leading global presence in the farm-to-consumer food chain. Bunge is the world's largest oilseed processor, the world's number one seller of bottled vegetable oil to consumers and the largest producer and supplier of fertilizers to farmers in South America.
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