April 21, 2017 / 4:32 PM / in 8 months

UPDATE 1-AgroGeneration core profits dip, upbeat on Ukraine reform plans

(Adds comments from chairman and chief executive, results figures)

PARIS, April 21 (Reuters) - Ukrainian agriculture will become more attractive to investors due to land sales and other economic reforms planned by the government, top executives at grain producer AgroGeneration said on Friday as the firm announced results.

The Paris-listed firm, which farms about 100,000 hectares in Ukraine, reported a dip in full-year earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) to 19.4 million euros ($20.74 million) for 2016 from 19.9 million euros in 2015.

But its net loss narrowed to 0.9 million euros from 7.9 million euros in 2015.

Speaking in a joint interview with Reuters, AgroGeneration’s chairman and its chief executive said Ukraine’s business environment would improve as the economy expanded and said political tensions would not halt the reform programme.

This month’s resignation of Ukraine’s central bank governor, Valeria Gontareva, respected by investors as a tough reformer capable of taking on vested interests, raised concerns land reforms and other initiatives could be blown off course.

“I don’t see Ukraine significantly slipping back in terms of reforms or the fight against corruption,” Chairman Michael Bleyzer said. “From the president downwards, officials all understand they can only go one way.”

While reforms aimed at lifting a freeze on land sales were expected to go ahead, it could take at least one or two years to implement because of the legal work needed, Bleyzer said.

However, Bleyzer said land ownership was not a crucial issue for AgroGeneration because there was a trend towards longer land lease periods. The company’s average lease was 10 years.

AgroGeneration expects to keep the area it has under crop cultivation steady this year, splitting it between winter crops like wheat and rapeseed and spring crops such as sunflower, maize and soybeans, Bleyzer said.

But Bleyzer, who acquired a controlling stake in AgroGeneration in 2013 and has been working to cut losses and debts since then, said the firm was looking for possible additional areas for the future.

Chief Executive John Shmorhun said AgroGeneration aimed to increase the share of exports in its grain sales this year, after raising it to 45 percent in 2016 from 38 percent in 2015.

AgroGeneration expected grain commodity prices to show signs of recovery this year, reflecting growing demand that had been masked by high global supply in recent seasons, Shmorhun said in the interview.

$1 = 0.9354 euros Reporting by Gus Trompiz; Editing by Edmund Blair

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