JBS has cash for takeover but is focused on growth, says CEO

SAO PAULO (Reuters) — Brazilian meatpacker JBS will have sufficient cash flow in 2015 to bankroll potential acquisitions, but for the time being plans to focus on consolidating gains from recent takeovers, chief executive Wesley Batista said on Tuesday.

The company in late March completed the US$1.125 billion buyout of Australian meats company Grupo Primo Smallgoods started in 2014, which will give it a base to boost sales in the Asia/Pacific region.

Batista said the company had no plans “to establish operations” in Asia at this time but would focus on organic growth in South America, North America and Australia.

He also ruled out issuing new shares in the U.S. and Brazilian markets for the near future.

Although pessimism about the Brazilian economy’s growth has intensified in the past months, Batista said it had not been reflected in the company’s domestic sales.

A recovery in the company’s exports of Brazilian beef, however, is not likely in 2015, the executive said.

“The greatest pressure over margins have come from the drop in exports, especially to Russia and Venezuela, due to the drop in oil prices and the devaluation of their currencies,” Batista said.

He added, though, that local beef demand and prices are expected to remain firm in the near term due to tight live cattle supplies.

JBS, founded in the interior centre-west farm belt of Brazil, has become the world’s largest beef exporter over the past decade.

The company has also expanded into poultry and pork production with the help of acquisitions in the United States and Australia and financing from Brazil’s BNDES national development bank.

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