Italian pasta maker Barilla seeks to expand in Latin America, Asia

MILAN Tue May 27, 2014 12:59pm EDT

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MILAN (Reuters) - Italy's Barilla [BARFI.UL], the world's biggest pasta maker, is looking for opportunities to expand in Latin America and Asia and could announce a deal in a few months, its chairman said on Tuesday.

"We are looking for partners similar to us... we are open to joint ventures as well as acquisitions," Guido Barilla, chairman of the family-owned group, said on the sidelines of a presentation of the company's 2013 results.

"There could be an announcement in the coming months... we are reviewing different options."

The Parma-based company has weathered a two-year recession in its home country, cutting costs and launching marketing campaigns.

Due to this strategy and investments in Brazil and Russia, Barilla's revenues rose 2.5 percent in 2013 to 3.2 billion euros ($4.37 billion) on a like-for-like basis.

However, the slow economic recovery in Italy - which accounted for nearly half of Barilla's sales last year - could hinder the company's goal of nearly doubling revenues to 6 billion euros by 2020.

"We want to grow aggressively in Latin America and in Asia, where we will focus on pasta and (ready-made) sauces," Chief Executive Claudio Colzani said.

Barilla had enough financial resources for a deal, Colzani said.

He said the company would not rush into a deal and was hoping to find a partner that shared its principle of producing high-quality food with limited environmental impact.

"We don't need to list, nor to use creative financial tools to find money to expand," said Colzani.

Barilla had a 347 million euro debt at the end of 2013, down from 574 million euros a year before. Its net profit rose 45 percent to 109 million euros last year.

The company, founded in 1877, has an expansion strategy based on pasta and sauces for distant markets, and bakery products such as biscuits, bread and snacks in Europe.

In September it plans to launch a pasta that can be cooked in a wok to win market share in Asia.

(Reporting by Francesca Landini and Elisa Anzolin; editing by Susan Thomas)

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