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Top Brazil coffee roaster is scouring for deals in South America

[SAO PAULO] Brazil's largest coffee roaster is on the prowl for acquisitions in less-consolidated South American markets.

The Tres Coracoes venture, owned jointly by Brazilian group Sao Miguel and Israel's largest publicly traded food maker Strauss Group Ltd., is looking to buy coffee-roasting companies in Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay and Bolivia, its president, Pedro Lima, said in an interview in Sao Paulo.

In Brazil, Tres Coracoes accounts for 27 percent of the roasted-coffee market, ahead of Dutch giant Jacob Douwe Egbert and Germany's Melitta, the second- and third-ranked players, respectively. The consolidated nature of the Brazilian market limits purchasing opportunities. That's not the case elsewhere in the region, said the entrepreneur, whose family started roasting coffee in the late 1950s in northeastern Brazil.

Argentina is high on the list of priorities, although the country's economic woes have put up a barrier to acquisitions. Tres Coracoes recently suspended early talks with a mid-sized roaster in Argentina after a plunge in the local currency. "But it's definitely a target market for us," Lima said.

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Eventually, Tres Coracoes wants to take its market share to more than 40 percent in Brazil, the largest producer and exporter of coffee. For now, elevated asset values are an impediment. "Sellers have increased their price expectation a lot in recent years," he said.

Since Strauss and Sao Miguel set up the joint venture in 2005, it has acquired eight coffee companies, the last of which was announced in May. Sales are expected to exceed 5 billion reais (S$1.77 billion) this year, up from 4.8 billion reais in 2018, he said.

Known formally as Tres Coracoes Alimentos SA, it's also looking to build its presence beyond coffee. The company already makes and sells products such as powdered juice and corn meal.

"In Brazil, we are looking for assets in the food segment known as ‘before lunch'," he said.