UPDATE 1-Pasta maker Barilla has 700 mln euro loan for acquisitions

Fri Sep 5, 2014 12:33pm EDT

* Barilla secures 5-year, 700 mln euros bank loan

* Pasta maker earmarks most of loan for acquisitions - CFO

* Barilla evaluating targets in Latin America, Britain - CFO (Recasts to add quotes from Barilla's CFO, background)

By Francesca Landini

MILAN, Sept 5 (Reuters) - Barilla, the world's biggest pasta maker, has secured a 700 million euro ($907 million) loan and is looking at acquisition targets in Latin America and in some European countries.

The Italian group, which is also well-known for pasta sauces and bakery products, said in a statement on Friday the loan replaced credit lines that were expiring.

The bulk of the fresh credit line has been earmarked for acquiring new companies overseas, its chief financial officer Giangaddo Prati told Reuters in an interview.

"We have some options open, we are evaluating targets both in Latin America and in Europe," Prati said. He said the company was looking at possible deals in the pasta and bakery sectors in Latin America and was keen on expanding in European countries such us Britain.

"An announcement could be made in the next few months."

A pool of 13 banks - including Italy's Intesa Sanpaolo and Mediobanca and foreign lenders such us Citi, BNP Paribas and Commerzbank - are taking part in the five-year loan.

Prati said what is left over could be devoted to organic growth in Russia and Brazil, where Barilla is gaining market shares against rivals.

Moscow has imposed a one-year embargo on meat, fish, dairy, fruit and vegetables from the United States, the EU, Canada, Australia and Norway in retaliation to Western economic sanctions over Moscow's involvement in the Ukraine crisis.

But pasta is not included in the import ban.

"Our business in Russia has not suffered from the fallout of the Ukrainian crisis, our sales in Russia are growing at a fast pace and we plan to open pasta productions facilities in the first quarter of next year," Prati said.

In Brazil, sales volumes more than doubled in the first eight months of this year.

The Parma-based company would also invest some of the money to open offices in Dubai as a base for activities in Middle East and Africa, another area where it hopes to grow rapidly.

Barilla has cut costs and stepped up marketing efforts during the economic downturn in the Italian market, which accounted for nearly half its sales last year.

Its revenues rose 2.5 percent to 3.2 billion euros ($4.37 billion) in 2013 on a like-for-like basis. The company aims to nearly double revenues to 6 billion euros by 2020.

Chief Executive Claudio Colzani has said the company wants to grow in Latin America and in Asia.

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 in distant countries, and bakery products such as biscuits, bread and snacks in Europe.

(1 US dollar = 0.7717 euro) (Reporting by Francesca Landini. Editing by Jane Merriman)