UPDATE 1-Heinz closing in on major Brazil deal-report

Fri Feb 25, 2011 10:31am EST

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* Heinz reported in advanced talks for Brazil deal

* Deal could be worth up to $600 million (Adds no comment from Heinz)

RIO DE JANEIRO Feb 25 (Reuters) - H.J. Heinz Co HNZ.N is in advanced stages of talks for an acquisition or merger in Brazil that could be worth up to 1 billion reais ($600 million), a Brazilian newspaper reported on Friday.

Citing an unnamed executive with knowledge of the talks, financial daily Valor Economico said Heinz planned to acquire or partner with unlisted Brazilian food company Quero Alimentos, which has annual sales of about 600 million reais.

Heinz currently has no direct operations in Brazil, one of the world's fastest-growing emerging economies, and sells products such as its trademark ketchup through import distributors, Valor said.

Heinz Chief Executive Officer William Johnson said on Thursday that emerging markets would make up as much of a third of the company's sales in about five years.

"I have never seen more M&A opportunities in emerging markets than I am seeing now," he told the annual meeting of the Consumer Analyst Group of New York in Boca Raton, Florida.

Heinz declined to comment. No one was immediately available at Quero Alimentos to comment on the report. ($1=1.66 reais) (Reporting by Stuart Grudgings; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Gerald E. McCormick)

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