ECONOMY

Nestle looks to Southeast Europe

Nestle Hellas is not ruling out any business moves, including buyouts, in the Balkans, where it has been allocated the task of expanding the group by the parent company in Switzerland. As far as an acquisition is concerned, interest is focused on the sector of bottled water, provided a good opening comes up. In the Balkans, the company today has four plants (in Romania, Bulgaria and Serbia), of which three are ice-cream production factories acquired after the buyout of Delta Ice Cream, and one is a chocolate and biscuits plant. The ice-cream sector has become a key one for the company and as Nestle Hellas chairman and CEO Evangelos Kalousis says, in 2007 the targets were more than met as this activity grew by 10 percent in the Balkans. Investment in this domain will exceed -10 million on an annual basis. Of course, the challenge for the company as well as other players in the ice-cream market is an extension of the traditional consumption period, which presently only covers the months from March to September, unlike in other European countries. Coffee Kalousis expressed his satisfaction with developments on the coffee market, where the company is a strong force, and particularly of Greek coffee, which «is beginning to re-emerge» and also gain ground among younger people. The Greek coffee market posted growth of 6.6 percent in 2007, while the biggest share (65 percent) belongs to standardized coffee destined for domestic consumption. In total, the coffee market is estimated at about -250-300 million, taking Greece to the 13th spot in the world in per capita consumption. The Nestle Hellas chairman said his company is not going to increase its retail price of coffee in the coming months, adding that the last price hike took place in 2006 and was 3 percent. In 2006, the turnover of Nestle Hellas reached -467.1 million and net profits came to -51 million. Investments that year reached -8.2 million.