Corn Products optimistic about future growth

by Eric Schroeder
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BOSTON — Exploring international growth opportunities and identifying potential acquisitions are on Corn Products International Inc.’s radar, said Ilene S. Gordon, chairman, president and chief executive officer of the Westchester, Ill.-based company.

Ms. Gordon, responding to an analyst’s question at the Barclays Capital Back-to-School Conference on Sept. 10, said Corn Products likes its position in areas such as South America and North America, but still sees room for growth, though she did not disclose specifically where that may occur.

"We’ve taken a lot of time to look at our strategy and analyze our opportunities and that’s why we haven’t come out definitively yet where we’re going to spend our money and how fast we’re going to grow," Ms. Gordon said.

Asked whether it would make sense for Corn Products to move into adjacent markets beyond starch, Ms. Gordon said the company will continue to participate in corn-based products, but stressed that Corn Products must have a broad range of products in order to solve consumers’ ingredient challenges.

"If you look at a country like Thailand, we have a tapioca-based product," she said. "Do I see us going into wheat or adjacencies like that? Probably not, because our expertise is in the corn processing side, though there are substitute sweeteners. But rather I see adjacencies from the base business in terms of high-intensity, low-calorie sweeteners, so that we address the health and nutrition trends that are both in North America and around the world. So I see opportunities in that product area.

"And then of course I see opportunities in other parts of the world in terms of geography. In Asia we have a couple of small positions; we’re trying to figure out how we can have a more important position in some of the countries like China and India that will create shareholder value. So I see our growth strategy in both going after adjacencies and again, market-based trends and then geographic opportunities."

In terms of acquisitions, Ms. Gordon said Corn Products would continue to focus on "the right opportunities to create the most shareholder value."

"The company has made small acquisitions in the past four or five years," she said. "I would expect that those opportunities are still ahead of us and that perhaps some that are a little bit larger. Cheryl (Beebe, vice-president and chief financial officer) and I always say a large acquisition takes as much energy as a small acquisition. It’s really how does it create value in the growth for our customers and synergies that may be attainable."

She added that the acquisitions that may be most helpful would be those in markets where there is a lot of capacity or in instances where the company sees features that it may be able to add value to.

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