Ajinomoto sees Myanmar plant restart as early as 2013

TOKYO Wed May 30, 2012 9:36pm EDT

Japanese spice maker Ajinomoto Co President and CEO Masatoshi Ito poses next to the company logo during a photo opportunity at the company headquarters in Tokyo May 30, 2012. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao

Japanese spice maker Ajinomoto Co President and CEO Masatoshi Ito poses next to the company logo during a photo opportunity at the company headquarters in Tokyo May 30, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Yuriko Nakao

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TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese spice maker Ajinomoto Co (2802.T) aims to restart operations at its Myanmar plant as early as 2013, its top executive said on Wednesday, as firms across the globe rush to do business in one of the world's last frontier markets.

President and CEO Masatoshi Ito told Reuters the company appointed a head for its Myanmar operations in May who was sent to work with staff in Thailand to prepare to restart the seasonings factory in Myanmar.

"I expect the schedule could call for the restart as early as during this business year (which ends in March 2013) or maybe as late as the following business year," Ito said, adding that he would like to make a decision by the end of 2012.

Many firms are interested in investing in Myanmar after its decades of military rule ended in the past year and a civilian government introduced broad reforms.

Ajinomoto, the creator of monosodium glutamate, is also eyeing overseas alliances and acquisitions as it works to lift its overseas profit ratio to 56 percent in its business year that begins in April 2013, up from a projected 51 percent this financial year.

Last month, Ajinomoto offloaded its profitable milky soft drink brand Calpis to Japanese brewer Asahi Group Holdings (2502.T) for about 120 billion yen ($1.51 billion) and plans to use the funds to concentrate on areas with more earnings growth potential such as seasonings and biotech.

Ito said that would add to a fund that already stands at 300 billion yen available for mergers and acquisitions expected to be available during the firm's current three-year midterm plan that ends in March 2014.

(Reporting by James Topham, Ritsuko Shimizu, Antoni Slodkowski; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

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