Suedzucker CEO hopeful of sugar market recovery if pandemic recedes

HAMBURG (Reuters) - The CEO of Suedzucker, Europe’s largest sugar refiner, on Thursday reaffirmed expectations of better full-year profit on hopes the economic impact of the pandemic will subside in coming months.

FILE PHOTO: A company logo of Suedzucker Group is pictured at the headquarters in Mannheim, Germany March 12, 2019. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski/File Photo

COVID-19 vaccination levels are continually rising worldwide, despite regional differences, CEO Niels Poerksen told Suedzucker’s online shareholders’ meeting.

“The expected result is that the economic impact (of the pandemic) will be reduced with time,” he said.

But the pandemic will still create unknown risks in the company’s new 2021/22 financial year.

Poerksen repeated Suedzucker’s forecast of full-year 2021/22 group operating profit of between 300 million and 400 million euros ($355 million to $473 million).

Poerksen said Suedzucker was implementing a new corporate strategy called 2026 Plus which included developing new businesses to participate in the rising global demand for plant-based foods and products.

The strategy could also involve company acquisitions or shareholdings in firms involved in attractive business sectors, including outside Europe, Poerksen said.

The new global demand for plant-based foods, protein and plant-based products generally is seen as a major opportunity with consumers showing great acceptance of plant-based proteins and sustainably-produced products, he said.

“Purchases of shareholdings worldwide can certainly be envisaged for Suedzucker,” Poerksen said. “As part of the process to develop our new strategy many attractive markets have been identified, including markets outside Europe.”

The expansion into new sectors “will not be solely by organic growth,” he said.

Along with sugar, Suedzucker already has interests including biofuels, processed foods such as pizzas, food ingredients and starches.

“Alternative proteins produced from plants are an attractive market,” said Poerksen, adding: “Suedzucker will expand in this product sector, building on our current business.”

Suedzucker makes animal feed using by-products from sugar beet processing and biofuel production from grains. The plant-based raw materials used for sugar, bioenergy and other products have great potential in other sectors.

Reporting by Michael Hogan, editing by Riham Alkousaa and David Evans