17 Jun 2010 18:38

WBD plans transaction with dairy assets in 2010, buyback could continue

MOSCOW. June 17 (Interfax) - OJSC Wimm-Bill-Dann Foods plans to hold a series of acquisitions of dairy assets by the end of 2010, the company's general director, Tony Maher, told journalists.

"Without doubt there will be transactions this year," he said, stressing that the company had been in negotiations for the acquisition of assets in dairy processing. The company is interested in projects in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, Maher said.

WBD expects its results for 2010t to be better than 2009. "We have observed stable demand on the juice market, which declined noticeably last year, as well as growing demand for dairy products and baby good," Maher said. He added that the company had increased sales of baby goods in the first quarter by 18% in natural terms while the total juice market, which contracted by 13% in 2009, dropped only by 3% in the first quarter.

The company approved its positive forecast for 2010 and the second quarter in particulate. While not citing specific figures, the company's representatives said that profit margins would be higher in the second quarter owing to increased sales of baby food, juices and dairy products.

WBD did not rule out that it could continue its buyback of assets, through which the company has acquired around 6% of its own shares worth 77.6 million. "If we have available funds, the shares will be quite inexpensive and we could buy them back again from the market," Maher said. He added that company had yet to make a final decision about how to use its treasury shares. They could be sold, utilized in transactions or redeemed, he said.

The company's sales revenue in 2009 came to $2.18 billion, down 22.8% from 2008, EBITDA - $306.6 million (down 15.1%) and net profit -$116.5 million (up 14.6%).

Wimm-Bill-Dann Foods is one of Russia's biggest juice and dairy producers. France's Danone owns 18.4% of the company, and its founders owned 42.3% of shares as of end-2009 - particularly Gavril Yushvaev (19.61%), Mikhail Dubinin (4.71%), and David Yakobashvili (10.5%). It has 36 production companies in Russian and the Commonwealth of Independent States, and trading branches in 26 cities.