April 9, 2018 / 9:40 PM / a year ago

Colombia's Nutresa to open 50 new restaurants this year - CEO

Chief Executive Carlos Ignacio Gallego of Nutresa speaks during a Reuters interview in Medellin, Colombia April 9, 2018. REUTERS/Fredy Builes

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Nutresa (NCH.CN), Colombia’s largest producer of processed foods, will invest about $94 million in the opening of 50 restaurants and ice cream parlors this year, as well as in its distribution, the company’s chief executive said on Monday.    Investment planned for this year exceeds 2017’s by almost 10 percent and Nutresa will also look at possible acquisitions in the 14 countries where operates, Carlos Ignacio Gallego told Reuters in a telephone interview.    

Nutresa (NCH.CN) produces processed meats, biscuits, chocolates, coffee, pasta, ice cream and owns restaurants Hamburguesas El Corral, Beer Station, Lenos & Carbon and Taco Bell, Papa John’s, Starbucks and Krispy Kreme franchises. It has more than 46,500 employees.    “The consumer food business has a good dynamic, with significant growth, it is a very dynamic business where we are going to continue managing openings (...) it has enormous potential,” Gallego said.    

The new restaurants and ice cream stores will be opened in Colombia, the Dominican Republic and Central America. Gallego did not say which brand the new restaurants will belong to, but Nutresa’s restaurant and ice cream parlor interests represent 8 percent of the company.    Despite moderate 2017 total revenue growth of 2.5 percent, because of a slowdown in consumption in Colombia, Gallego said the company improved its leverage profile. Colombia represents 62 percent of total sales.    

“We will continue to be very active, trying to grow in what we already have, but also exploring possible acquisitions in areas of interest,” Gallego said. “Since we now have a renewed purchasing capacity due to the improvement of debt indicators, it is a possibility (purchasing capacity) will increase.”    

Gallego said acquisition opportunities could include not only the purchase of entire companies but also lines of business or brands that complement the presence Nutresa already has in Chile, Peru, Central America, some regions of the United States and in Southeast Asia.    

Gallego said that although he has an “open mind” about raising funds from the market, he does not plan to issue any bonds in the short term.    

In 2013, Nutresa set a goal to double its total revenue to 11.9 trillion pesos ($4.2 billion) by 2020.

“We remain firm in that goal, in 2017 we closed at 8.6 trillion pesos, there is still a gap but the goal is alive,” he said.    ($1 = 2,791.88 Colombian pesos)

Reporting by Nelson Bocanegra; Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Sandra Maler

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