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PepsiCo is looking to acquire businesses but is finding it difficult to find the right companies to buy, chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi has indicated.

After presenting at the Consumer Analyst Group of New York conference in Florida yesterday (18 February), Nooyi was asked how M&A sits in the list of PepsiCo’s priorities, particularly with respect to deals larger than bolt-on transactions.

“One of the things we don’t shy away from is investments that can grow this business meaningfully in a value-creating way over the long term. We have the management bandwidth, we have the capabilities, we have the talent. We can do it. What we are struggling with is finding the right opportunities out there,” Nooyi said.

Of the major names in the food sector, PepsiCo has been among the least active in M&A in recent years. In 2013, International Dairy & Juice, a venture in the Middle East in which PepsiCo holds a 48% stake, upped its ownership of Teeba Investment for Developed Food Processing Co., a dairy business in Jordan. In 2011, PepsiCo snapped up Brazilian biscuit manufacturer Mabel and Argentinian cookie and cracker producer Dilexis.

PepsiCo’s last significant deal came in February 2011 when the company acquired a 66% stake in Russian dairy and soft drinks group Wimm-Bill-Dann for US$3.8bn.

Earlier this month, PepsiCo was reported to have registered interest in buying a majority stake in US-based yoghurt maker Chobani, although the Lay’s-to-Quaker owner has made no comment on the claimsBloomberg reported PepsiCo had made an offer to invest in Chobani but the bid was turned down. Bloomberg, citing unnamed sources, said Chobani wanted to sell a minority stake in the business but PepsiCo was looking to acquire over half the company.

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Speaking at CAGNY, Nooyi indicated PepsiCo, like others across the FMCG sector, are finding current valuations for some smaller business too rich. She also suggested the company has yet to find a larger target that was attractive enough. In 2013, activist investor Nelson Peltz called on PepsiCo to merge its snacks business with Mondelez International, which Nooyi resisted. A year later, Peltz gave up on his bid to get the entities to combine, although a number of analysts on Wall Street speculate a deal could happen in the future, pointing to revenue and cost synergies that could come from the transaction.

Nooyi made no comment on Chobani, Mondelez or any other company at CAGNY. However, she said:  “The small ones are excessively priced because everybody wants to go after it. The big ones each have their warts – whether it’s management team not there or the business model doesn’t fit or it’s a conflict of what we’re doing in our own strategy. We’ve yet to find that gem of a company out there that can meaningfully create value and grow PepsiCo better than we are doing today – but if you have any ideas let us know, we’ll certainly listen to you.”