Cargill Inc. said Monday that it plans to shell out $2.17 billion for Netherlands-based Provimi, one of the agribusiness giant's larger deals in recent years and a big step in strengthening its global animal feed business.

The seller is Permira Funds, a United Kingdom-based private equity group that has owned Provimi since 2007. The deal requires approvals by regulators and Provimi's workers councils.

The Provimi deal would allow Minnetonka-based Cargill to expand its geographic reach in feed, particularly in Europe. The animal feed business is growing at a strong clip globally, as emerging nations from Eastern Europe to Southeast Asia become richer and demand more meat.

The feed industry is still relatively fragmented, but it's consolidating. Cargill's acquisition of Provimi "would create a new, world-class animal nutrition offering," Cargill Vice Chairman Paul Conway said.

The two companies' feed operations are similar in size. Cargill has about 10,000 employees in animal nutrition, about 7 percent of its global workforce. Provimi, a feed specialist, has more than 7,000 employees. It had $2.3 billion in sales last year.

Both companies have animal feed operations in 26 countries, though not necessarily the same ones. In a news release, Cargill said the two companies have "complementary market positions and strengths."

Provimi is particularly strong in feed technology and premixed feed, which tends to have higher profit margins.

With the acquisition, Cargill will get access to key European feed markets where it has little or no presence, including Belgium, Portugal, France, Ireland and Spain, Cargill spokesman Timothy Loesch said.

Last month, Cargill finalized its purchase of a major Italian feed producer, Raggio di Sole Mangimi, for an undisclosed price. And in June, a major expansion of Cargill's feed mill in Efremov, Russia, came on line.

Provimi also is particularly strong in emerging markets like Russia, Mexico and Brazil, according to Dutch brokerage Keijser Capital.

Two large Dutch firms also had been teaming up to bid on Provimi, while a Chinese firm was also reportedly interested.

Cargill's deal for Provimi comes three months after the sale of its $20 billion-plus majority stake in Mosaic, the Plymouth-based fertilizer maker. That deal gave Cargill the ability to retire billions of dollars in debt and provided it with more fuel for acquisitions.

Cargill's larger purchases over the past year include an Australian grain handling and trading operation for about $800 million; Unilever's Brazilian tomato products business for $350 million; and an 85 percent stake in an Indonesian food ingredients maker for $300 million.

Mike Hughlett • 612-673-7003