CAIRO, (Reuters) – Savola Foods will raise its edible oil refining capacity in Saudi Arabia to 400,000 tonnes per year, from 300,000 t/yr, when a new refining unit comes online end-2009, the company’s chief executive said on Tuesday.
Chief Executive Zouhair Eloudghari said Savola, a unit of Saudi-based Savola Group 2050.SE, would use the added capacity from the Gulf Arab state to boost market share in nearby countries such as Syria and Iraq.
“The new refinery is coming onstream by the end of this year, which will bring our total capacity to 400,000 tonnes,” Eloudghari told journalists at an oils and fats conference in the Egyptian capital.
He said the firm currently holds 15 percent of the market in Syria, and a negligible share in Iraq. It holds 35 percent of the market in Jordan.
“Now there is a huge opportunity as Iraq gets more secure and Syria opens up,” he said.
“Our total market share in the Levant is currently around 15 percent, but our target is 40 to 50 percent, so we need to distribute at least another 100,000 tonnes to this region.”
He added that he expected the firm to import 1.4 million tonnes of vegetable oil for refining in 2009, a 5 percent increase over 2008 when the firm imported 1.28 million tonnes.
Savola Group, the world’s largest maker of branded cooking oil, posted a near-23 percent fall in first-quarter net profit to 193 million riyals ($51.47 million), better than analysts’ forecasts.
The firm has said its earnings in the first quarter of last year were boosted by non-recurring capital gains.