Nestle expanding in SEAsia despite crisis: CEO

By AFP

July 15, 2010 Updated Jun 14, 2009 at 9:41 PM CDT

Swiss food and beverage giant Nestle will step up investment in Southeast Asia despite the impact of the global economic crisis, the company's chief executive said here.

Paul Bulcke said the financial downturn was not deterring Nestle from committing 260 million Swiss Francs (241 million US dollars) to the region, a 15-20 percent increase from 2008.

"I see more opportunities than problems," he said at a news conference late Saturday. "We see when there is conflict, when there is turbulence, we see there is huge potential."

He said the company was well placed to retain customer share even in the financial downturn and despite consumers switching to lower-priced goods.

"What we have to do is to adapt our situation so that they can trade down staying with our brands. They don't have to trade out of our brands."

Bulcke said the company experienced 15 percent growth in Southeast Asia in 2008, and is expanding its business and manufacturing facilities in the region.

The area covered by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) political and trading bloc represents a market of some 600 million people.

"The ASEAN region represents approximately 10 percent of the world's population, and I would like to reiterate that it will remain a very important growth driver for the company," he said.

"The ASEAN region is a very important part of the Nestle business overall and our continued commitment and ongoing investments... demonstrate our confidence in this region."

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