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China's sweet-toothed millennials lure giant sugar player MSM

Kuala Lumpur

ONE of Asia's biggest sugar refiners is in talks to sell the sweetener in China, seduced by the country's "new generation" of consumers.

MSM Malaysia Holdings Bhd is nearing the final stages of discussions to set up partnerships in China's downstream sugar industry, executive director Khairil Anuar Aziz said. The refiner is looking to sell sugar for popular snacks such as bubble tea, health drinks and bread, as well as healthier sweeteners, condensed milk and molasses used in alcohol.

There's "opportunity if you really blend it with the current lifestyle of people" in China, Mr Khairil said in an interview at the company headquarters in Kuala Lumpur last week. "We really want to provide sugar to all these different industries - bakeries, bubble tea, healthy drinks. The demand is there."

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MSM's wager on China follows a tumultuous time for the global sugar market, which has been one of the worst performers in recent years. The more-than 40 per cent plunge in futures in the past two years has hurt firms from Germany's Suedzucker AG to major Singaporean food trader Olam International Ltd. MSM hasn't gone unscathed, with dwindling sales leading to a quarterly loss and shares tumbling to a record low on Monday. MSM shares in Kuala Lumpur rose as much as 4.7 per cent to RM1.77 on Tuesday.

MSM is hoping China can help turn things around. The refiner, the world's sixth largest for standalone capacity at 2.25 million tonnes per year, sees China as Asia's next biggest sugar market as the younger generation become increasingly busy and pick up easy-to-eat sugary snacks on the go. BLOOMBERG