24 de febrero de 2015 / 15:48 / hace 2 años

Colombia's Nutresa looks abroad as it reports slight 2014 profit fall

BOGOTA, Feb 24 (Reuters) - Colombia's largest food conglomerate, Nutresa, sees "great potential" for continued gains in overseas sales, executives said on a conference call with investors on Tuesday.

The company, which has 70 food-product brands and operates in 12 countries, said it hopes to expand across the region and in the United States.

"The United States, which accounts for some 7 percent of sales, has a renewed dynamic - it's going very well and has great potential," Chief Executive Carlos Ignacio Gallego said.

"Mexico, with 3.7 percent of sales, is a market in which we effectively want a larger presence going forward," he said.

Net profit dropped 0.7 percent to 377.5 billion pesos ($151.6 million) in 2014 from the year before, Nutresa said late on Monday.

Operating income fell 1.8 percent to 638 billion pesos because of costs associated with acquiring Chilean food-products company Tresmontes Lucchetti.

Nutresa, which is controlled by Grupo Empresarial Antioqueno, reported a 3.8 percent increase in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization to 864 billion pesos.

The company said it will complete its purchase of El Corral, Colombia's largest fast-food chain, in March.

Nutresa said the strength of the U.S. dollar against Latin American currencies has helped the company compete in countries where it manufactures locally. "In general the exchange rate gives us an opportunity," Gallego said. "It strengthens us against competitors, which only sell exported products."

Nutresa sells cold meats, crackers, chocolate, coffee, ice cream and pasta in 12 countries and operates factories in eight.

The company said it would raise its monthly dividend 6.94 percent to 38.5 pesos per share from 36 pesos.

$1=2,490 Colombian pesos Reporting by Nelson Bocanegra and Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Peter Galloway

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