By Charlie Higgins
Olive Oil Times Contributor | Reporting from Buenos Aires
The Spanish conglomerate Grupo SOS, the world’s leader in olive oil sales, will begin 2011 on solid financial ground. With both the successful refinancing of over a billion euros in debt and a recent injection of almost 600 million in capital, the company has announced a detailed strategic plan to distribute dividends to investors within the next two and a half years.
The good news began in November, when Grupo SOS sold its rice business to Ebro Foods for 195 million euros. The company also opened the door to shareholders, with a share of 9.333% after disbursing some 47.5 euros. In January Ebro’s ex-managing director Jaime Carbó will become the new CEO of Grupo SOS in a move that solidifies the relationship between the two alimentary giants.
In a recent interview with Spanish business magazine Expansión, current Grupo SOS president Mariano Pérez Claver discussed the company’s business strategy. “SOS now has a clear future and strong growth potential.” Claver commented on the importance of management in the development of the business, adding,“The value of SOS is in the business.”
Grupo SOS has vowed to pay dividends to investors by the middle of 2013 in accordance with recent refinancing agreements. However actual shareholder returns will be contingent upon the company’s level of debt. “We can’t pay out dividends until the company reduces its level of debt by 300 percent. That’s our game plan and we hope to achieve our goal in the next two and a half years,” announced Pérez Claver. The last Grupo SOS dividend payout was made on June 18, 2008 at 0.036 Euros per share.
Furthermore, Pérez Claver explained that the sale of the rice business to Ebro Foods back in November will allow Grupo SOS to exceed initial growth rate estimates. He attributes this to the rapid growth of olive oil, the company’s biggest seller, in the international market, particularly in the United States, Brazil and China. By investing more in olive oil instead of rice, Grupo SOS should be able to achieve sustainable levels of debt.
Grupo SOS is Spain’s second largest food conglomerate and owns the brand name Carbonell, the world’s best selling olive oil. A number of other leading olive oil brands like Carapellia, Bertolli and Sasso also fall under SOS’s corporate umbrella.