BOSTON — Bunge Ltd. plans to “let the numbers drive us” when it comes to future investment opportunities, said Gregory A. Heckman, chief executive officer.
Presenting at the Barclays Consumer Staples Conference in Boston on Sept. 7, Mr. Heckman said Bunge’s broad portfolio opens the door for the St. Louis-based company to take a calculated approach to potential joint ventures, acquisitions or other investment opportunities.
“That’s the beauty of having all of these areas to decide,” he explained. “We don’t have to reach for a project. We don’t have to take risks that don’t make sense versus the return. So no doubt on origination, it continues to be very important to be able to serve our origination customer and serve our leading global crushing asset base.
“So how do we increase on our relevance to the customer? How do we continue to protect and build on our strongest franchises? And how do we fill in some of our weaknesses? We’ll continue to focus on that as it becomes available. Of course, that will be on the oilseed crushing side as well and our distribution capabilities globally. So if you think about our origination distribution, not only serves our assets, but it serves some of our third-party customers.”
On the value-added side, Mr. Heckman said he expects Bunge to continue to grow its specialty fats and oils and lipids business, areas he believes have the potential to not only grow organically but through bolt-on acquisitions.
“We love that business,” Mr. Heckman said. “It benefits from some of the trends, not only from the snacking trends, but the trends around plant proteins, which we think is in place and will continue to grow.”
He added that the company’s customers would like to see Bunge grow its plant protein business. As a commodity supplier, Bunge will grow its plant proteins business organically over time, but Mr. Heckman said he’d still like to see the company continue to “value up” in that category moving forward.
Energy is another aspect of Bunge’s business that remains ripe for investment, Mr. Heckman said. Last year Bunge partnered with Chevron Corp. on a 50/50 joint venture to help meet demand for renewable fuels and to develop lower carbon intensity feedstocks.
“I love Chevron as a partner,” he said. “They’re fantastic. We are now — we’re true 50/50 partners. This isn’t a supply relationship. So we are looking end-to-end, from the farmer to when we turn it into the veg oil, from when they take the veg oil, and what that means all the way out to the retail customer. And so as we talk about different feedstocks and different blends and how that works in their facilities versus what we can do in our facilities, we’re solving together and really excited about some of the value that we’re going to be able to create.”
Mr. Heckman said Bunge will continue to talk to other energy companies around the world about potential opportunities.
“I don’t think this is the last thing you’ll hear us do,” he said.
Mr. Heckman did point to a couple areas where he doesn’t expect Bunge to make a move. First, don’t look for Bunge to enter the retail shelf or sell directly to the consumer.
“We don’t want to compete with our customers,” he said. “We want to be a supplier to those food manufacturers that sell to the retail. That’s where we think our sweet spot is.”
Second, he doesn’t envision Bunge becoming a renewable diesel producer.“We want to be a feedstock to that industry and stop it there, and that’s really kind of what we have with Chevron and we will with others as well,” he said.