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February 15, 2019 11:15 AM, EST

George Soros Cuts Stake in Agriculture Giant ADM

ADM Mark Hirsch/Bloomberg News

Billionaire George Soros has cut his holdings in agriculture giant Archer Daniels Midland Co. by more than half as the company contends with sluggish commodity markets amid the U.S.-China trade war.

Soros Fund Management held 325,000 ADM shares at the end of the fourth quarter, a filing showed Feb. 14. That is down from 720,000 shares in the third quarter.

ADM, one of the biggest U.S. biofuel producers, this month reported fourth-quarter profit that trailed analysts’ estimates, its first earnings miss in more than a year. Profit was dragged down as the absence of Chinese purchases of U.S. supplies added to a glut of ethanol. Shares of the company are little-changed over the past year.

News of the Soros move came on the same day that a series of reports showed a deepening malaise enveloping the U.S. agricultural economy. The trade war has threatened to undermine demand for products ranging from apricots to soybeans after China slapped retaliatory duties on American goods.

Ethanol, made from corn, has been under pressure in particular. Todd Becker, CEO of biofuel maker Green Plains Inc., said Feb. 11 that his industry may have burned through about $1 billion in cash to weather a tough 2018. China has 70% tariffs on the U.S. fuel additive.

Archer Daniels Midland ranks No. 74 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest private carriers in North America.