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Agria executive flight no threat to PGG Wrightson investment

BUSINESSDESK: The exit of Chinese agriculture firm Agria Corp's top two executives is not expected to impact on its majority stake in New Zealand rural services firm PGG Wrightson.

Agria is "fully committed to its investment in PGG Wrightson" after chief executive Xie Tao and chief financial officer John Layburn both resigned on October 9, effective yesterday, a company spokesman told BusinessDesk in an emailed statement.

"We do not anticipate any impact on PGG Wrightson as this is an Agria-specific development," he says.

A rejig of Wrightson's board, announced earlier this week, was a harbinger of the change, with Mr Xie not standing for re-election on the New Zealand rural services firm's board.

Agria's board has set up a committee to help smooth the transition as it looks to replace its senior leadership team and enter the next phase of its development, the spokesman says.

Messrs Xie and Layburn's departure came the same day New York Stock Exchange-listed Agria reported a net loss of $US2.5 million in the year ended June 30 on sales of $US1.09 billion.

Agria changed its balance date during the year, making it difficult to draw comparisons with the previous period.

The company completed a $144 million partial takeover of Wrightson in a deal that brought on China's New Hope International and Ngai Tahu as minority shareholders in the holding company.

Wrightson is the major source of revenue for Agria, which it uses to run its international operations across China, New Zealand, Australia and South America.

Last week Wrightson won government backing for a $14.6 million research programme where the Crown will stump up half the funds for research into raising seed quality. Wrightson's seeds business was seen as the main attraction for Agria's takeover.

Agria's shares fell 2.4% to 80 US cents in trading in New York, while Wrightson stock fell 2.7% to 36 cents on the NZX yesterday.