Colombia's Nutresa sets sights on foreign acquisitions

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia's biggest food processing conglomerate, Nutresa NCH.CN, hopes to double sales in six years partly through takeovers in foreign markets to capitalize on strong sales growth abroad, top company officials said on Friday.

Nutresa’s sales in 2013 grew 11.2 percent to $3 billion, one third of which were made in Colombia. Domestic market growth last year was 2 percent but abroad it was 27.5 percent, explaining the company’s interest in foreign acquisitions.

The company’s portfolio includes meat processors and makers of biscuits, chocolate, ice cream and pasta.

“We are studying opportunities in countries that allow for cooperative activity to develop normally and where we can put the group’s strengths to work,” said new CEO Carlos Ignacio Gallego. He replaces Carlos Piedrahita who is leaving after 14 years.

Neither named any specific takeover targets at a news conference on Friday.

Last July Nutresa bought Chile’s Tresmontes Lucchetti for $758 million and reached a deal in February with Japan’s Mitsubishi Corp to create a coffee-trading company in Asia, a region in Nutresa’s expansion plan alongside Latin America.

Reporting by Nelson Bocanegra; Writing by Peter Murphy; Editing by Ken Wills