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Economy

ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Charles Beigbeder chez les affameurs

by Gérard Le Puill

Charles Beigbeder Turns Land-Grabber.

Translated Thursday 4 March 2010, by Isabelle Métral and reviewed by Henry Crapo

Poweo’s founder, who is also on the executive committee of MEDEF, the French bosses’ association, launches into agricultural speculation by renting thousands of hectares in Ukraine.

Charles Beigbeder is one of the MEDEF’s leaders. He is also a man whose first ambition is to earn as much money as possible, and as fast as possible, by all manner of ploys. He started by setting up Selftrade, an on-line bank, then sold it at a profit to set up Poweo, a private electricity supplier in the prospect of the opening up of the branch to competition following a EU directive. As Poweo is making no progess on the market against the French public electricity supplier, Beigbeder sold his shares but kept his CEO’s salary.

With the money he made out of the sale he then set up AgroGeneration with partners, among which Champagne Céréales. He first rented 22,000 hectares of fertile farmland in Ukraine and is hoping to own as much as 100,000 hectares within three or four years. He expects to pull out of the red by 2010, and to make a huge profit by 2011, vouches he will distribute big dividends by 2013 on the sale of Ukrainian crops of wheat, maize, colza and sunflower seeds. He rents land at € 28 a hectare under a 19-year lease, five times less than it costs in France.

With the 2007 and 2008 boon years behind them, French cereal growers have difficulty making a profit for 2009. But the French business daily Les Échos recently declared that in a country like Ukraine returns on investment over ten years are rated at between 10 and 40% a year, adding that returns in Africa can reach 400%. So worse is sure to follow if markets are bullish in the near future.

In view of this, it is no wonder that the number of ill-fed people in the world soared from 830 million in 2007 to over a billion in 2009. By taking control of the vital food sector, the big capitalist groups are preparing new famines and increasingly important human migrations.


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