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The Star Online: Business

China Feb exports tumble amid global uncertainties

Posted: 07 Mar 2014 09:19 PM PST

BEIJING: China's exports in February tumbled 18.1 percent from a year earlier, official data showed, raising questions about the health of the world's second-largest economy despite officials blaming Lunar New Year holidays for the unexpected slide.

Imports rose 10.1 percent in February from a year earlier, producing a trade deficit of $23 billion for the month, theGeneral Administration of Customs said on Saturday.

That compared with market expectations in a Reuters poll of a rise of 6.8 percent in exports, an 8 percent rise in imports and a trade surplus of $14.5 billion.

Analysts cautioned against reading too much into single monthly figures for January or February, given possible distortions caused by the Lunar New Year holiday, which began on Jan. 31 and covered early February. Many plants and offices shut for extended periods during the festival.

Putting January and February together, exports still fell 1.6 percent from a year earlier, versus a 7.9 percent full-year rise in 2013. Imports rose 10 percent year-on-year in the first two months, which compared to a 7.3 percent rise in 2013.

"February export numbers were a surprise on the downside, and even combined January-February numbers were below market expectations," said Li Heng, an economist at Minsheng Securities in Beijing.

"The data shows that the economy faces relatively big downward pressures and macro-policies need to be loosened a bit."

The government may step up fiscal spending to support some investment projects if growth slows further, given there is limited room for the central bank to loosen policy, Li said.

China's trade outlook is widely expected to be rosier this year in line with a recovery in developed countries.

China is fully confident of achieving its 7.5 percent growth target in total trade this year, Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng said on Friday, citing an improving global economic environment.

China's combined exports and imports grew 7.6 percent in 2013, just short of the official target of 8 percent.China's goods trade in 2013 hit $4.16 trillion, overtaking the United States for the first time to become the world's largest goods trading nation, Gao said on Friday. - Reuters

Goldman Sachs unit, Vestar near $1.1 deal for Hearthside Food

Posted: 07 Mar 2014 09:11 PM PST

NEW YORK:The private equity arm of Goldman Sachs Group Inc and Vestar Capital Partners are nearing a deal to buy Hearthside Food Solutions LLC for more than $1.1 billion, people familiar with the matter said on Friday.

The consortium of Goldman Sachs and Vestar is in the final stage of negotiating an agreement with Hearthside's private equity owner, Wind Point Partners, and is working toward an announcement in the coming days, the people said.

The buyout groups emerged as the winning bidder for the largest U.S. food contract manufacturer, following an auction that also attracted bids from BC Partners LLC and Oak Hill Capital Partners, the people said.

The sources asked not to be identified because the deal was not yet public. Representatives for Hearthside, Goldman Sachs, Vestar, Wind Point Partners, BC Partners and Oak Hill Capital did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Wind Point had asked Barclays Plc to run an auction for Hearthside, hoping to fetch more than $1 billion, Reuters reported in October.

Hearthside produces baked foods and snacks out of 20 manufacturing facilities in eight U.S. states for the world's premier food companies, employing more than 7,500 full-time workers, according to its website.

The company, based in Downers Grove, Illinois, was created in 2009 by Wind Point and Rich Scalise, a former Ralcorp Frozen Bakery Products president and veteran of ConAgra Foods Inc . Scalise now serves as Hearthside's chairman and chief executive officer.

Last year, Hearthside agreed to sell Golden Temple, its ready-to-eat cereals and granola-making business, to Post Holdings Inc for $158 million in cash. - Reuters


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