* Says should have detected issues in Brazil earlier
* Will monitor turnaround plans
* Focus on organic growth rather than M&A
(Adds CEO comments, detail)
AMSTERDAM, May 3 (Reuters) - A senior executive of TNT TNT.AS, the Dutch mail and express firm which is set to split into two listed units soon, said on Tuesday she should have tackled problems in Brazil earlier and promised to fix them.
Brazil has become the bane of TNT Express, wiping out a 4 percent growth in first-quarter underlying income in Europe, Middle East and Africa and sending overall underlying operating income down 31 percent to 49 million euros. [ID:nLDE7410A0]
“I usually beat myself a lot when I see some issues like Brazil, I take this very personally... I should have found out Brazil earlier if I had not been focusing on this demerger process,” Marie-Christine Lombard, Chief Executive of TNT Express, told analysts in London.
TNT bought Brazilian firm Expresso Mercurio in 2007 and its delivery partner Expresso Aracatuba in 2009 and has struggled with integrating the businesses since.
It booked a first-quarter non-cash impairment on Brazil of 120 million euros.
In March, Lombard put in place a new management team in Brazil reporting directly to her and has set a deadline for it to achieve a turnaround by the second half of 2012. TNT has a 20 percent share of Brazil’s 1.8 billion euros express market.
“My commitment is monitoring the turnaround plan and going to Brazil every six weeks because I do not want my name associated with a loss in Brazil, it’s as simple as that,” said Lombard, who is set to lead a listed TNT Express.
Lombard added that beyond Brazil and China, where TNT is fighting to become profitable by 2013 in the face of domestic competition, her focus was on organic growth and streamlining existing assets, rather than mergers and acquisitions.
TNT Express, which delivers to more than 200 countries using a fleet of 50 aircraft and 30,000 trucks and vans, is set to split from TNT’s mail unit and have its own listing on May 26, subject to a shareholder vote the day before.
Lombard said Express offered a unique play for investors in the pure express sector. With TNT’s shares at its lowest levels for close to two years, decade-old speculation about interest in Express by rivals UPS (UPS.N) and FedEx (FDX.N) has intensified. (Reporting by Greg Roumeliotis)