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Deere to explore strategic options for crop insurance business


(Reuters) — Deere & Co., the world's largest farm equipment maker, said it was exploring strategic options for its low-margin crop insurance business and had hired Citigroup Inc. as its adviser.

The company said no formal decisions had been made and no agreements had been reached yet.

The business underwrites policies through John Deere Insurance Co., offering protection to farmers from losses stemming from a variety of causes such as natural disasters and declines in crop prices.

The insurance business is a part of the company's financial services arm. Financial services accounted for 7% of Deere's total revenue of $9.5 billion in the third quarter ended July 31.

Deere, along with rivals Agco Corp. and Titan Machinery Inc., has been struggling with falling demand for its farm equipment as low corn prices and a bumper crop in 2013 have hurt farmers' ability to spend on new machinery.

The company said in August that it would lay off more than 600 employees at its plants in Illinois, Iowa and Kansas.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture expects 2014 crop supply to increase faster than demand for corn, soybeans and wheat in the United States, which could further discourage farmers from investing in tractors, harvesters and other agricultural machinery.

Illinois-based Deere could not be reached for comment on the specific nature of the strategic options it was exploring.

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