ST. LOUIS — Bunge Ltd. and Viterra have agreed to a merger that will create one of the world’s largest agribusiness firms, moving it closer in size and scope to leading agribusiness giants Cargill and ADM.

As part of the $18 billion deal, which was unanimously approved by both companies’ board of directors, Viterra shareholders will receive about 65.6 million shares of Bunge stock, carrying a value of about $6.2 billion, and approximately $2 billion in cash. Bunge also will assume $9.8 billion of Viterra’s debt.

If the merger is approved by regulators, Bunge’s annual revenues would move closer to US agribusiness rival ADM, which reported sales of nearly $102 billion in 2022. Bunge and Viterra’s combined sales were more than $67 billion last year.

Following the close of the transaction, which is expected to take place in 2024, the combined company will operate as Bunge, led by Gregory Heckman, Bunge’s chief executive officer, and John Neppl, Bunge’s chief financial officer. David Mattiske, CEO of Viterra, will join the Bunge executive leadership team in the role of co-chief operating officer. The company’s headquarters will be in St. Louis, while Viterra’s current headquarters in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, will be an important commercial location in the future of the combined company.

Mr. Heckman, who took over as CEO of Bunge in 2019 at a time when the company was struggling as a takeover target with sagging profits, said the merger “significantly accelerates Bunge’s strategy, building on our fundamental purpose to connect farmers to consumers to deliver essential food, feed and fuel to the world.”

“Our highly complementary asset footprints will create a network that connects the world’s largest production regions to areas of fastest growing consumption, enhancing the geographical balance and adaptability of our global value chains and benefiting farmers and end-customers,” Mr. Heckman said. “With a diversified global mix of earnings across processing, handling and merchandising, and value-added products, we will increase the resiliency of our cash flow generation.

“We have great respect for the team at Viterra, which shares our commitment to excellence, and believe this combination will offer great opportunities for employees of both companies. Together, we will be positioned to increase our operational efficiency while innovating to address the pressing needs of food security, efficiency for end-customers, market access for farmers, and sustainable food, feed and renewable fuel production.”

Viterra, which has been owned by Switzerland-based commodity trading giant Glencore PLC since 2012, operates a network of agricultural storage, processing and transport assets in 37 countries. Bunge is a world leader in soybean processing and a leading supplier of specialty plant-based oils and fats, operating approximately 300 facilities in more than 40 countries.

Viterra reported its most successful year ever in 2022 with a record EBITDA of $2.65 billion, noting record production in its main export regions among the reasons for its strong performance.

Mr. Mattiske said the combined companies will “play a leading role in the future of the agriculture industry, developing fully traceable, sustainable supply chains and moving toward carbon-neutral operations, while creating a strong growth platform for our combined business.”

“This further enables us to offer innovative solutions and open additional pathways for our customers,” he said. “We will create value for stakeholders across our network, as we build on our shared purpose to connect producers and consumers around the world. We look forward to joining with the Bunge team as we enter this next chapter, creating new opportunities for our people.”

Bunge said merging with Viterra augments its existing footprint with significant grain and softseed handling capacity, while expanding origination capabilities in key regions and crops where Bunge is underrepresented. The combined company will be diversified across the key export origins, as well as major crush destinations.

Bunge will increase its already leading position as a soybean and corn exporter in South America as Viterra currently ranks among the largest exporters of those crops in Brazil.

The deal will dramatically increase Bunge’s grain storage and handling capacity in Australia, a leading wheat, barley and canola producer and exporter. Viterra has 55 storage sites in South Australia and western Victoria and six bulk grain export terminals.

In Ukraine, the world’s top sunflower producer and largest supplier of sunflower oil, the merged companies would have three oilseed processing plants in the southern and eastern parts of the country.

The deal also will positively impact Bunge’s North American footprint. Viterra recently acquired US-based grain company Gavilon for its grain origination and storage and food ingredients business. Mr. Heckman was CEO of Gavilon from 2008 to 2015.

Ironically, in early 2017, Viterra, then known as Glencore Agriculture, attempted a takeover of Bunge, which was then valued at $11 billion. The attempted takeover was rebuffed. Bunge is now worth more than $14 billion.

Shares of Bunge fell 2.5% to $91.45 in premarket trading on June 13.