HJ Heinz today (3 March) unveiled plans to buy an 80% stake in Brazilian tomato sauce group Coniexpress as it revealed that sales in emerging markets propelled third-quarter revenues.

The company said that revenues rose 1.5% during the three months to 26 January, rising to US$2.72bn. Gains were driven by revenues from emerging markets, which increased by 14.6%, the US ketchup maker revealed.

Operating income increased 0.4% to $438m and net income rose 19.8% to $274m. Earnings were boosted by higher sales, volume and mix, improved margins and a more favourable tax rate, Heinz said.

For the first nine months of the year net income totalled $766m, compared with $673m a year ago.

As part of its drive to grow sales in emerging markets, Heinz announced that it had taken the “significant step” of investing in its first major Brazilian enterprise, Coniexpress. The Brazilian group manufactures tomato-based sauces, paste, ketchup and condiments under the Quero brand and generated annual sales of approximately $325m last year.

“Brazil has been on our priority list for some time because it generates about 45% of Latin America’s GDP and is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. It is a market with attractive economic growth, a large number of middle-class consumers and strong upside potential,” Heinz chairman, president and CEO William Johnson said. “With Quero, Heinz will be well positioned in the key emerging markets of Brazil, Russia, India, and China as well as Indonesia. We expect the Quero business to approximately double Heinz’s sales in Latin America in the first full year.”

Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. Heinz expects to close the transaction in the next few months.

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