Food and drinks group Agthia eyes acquisitions to become big regional player

* Has 'pipeline of ideas' for acquisition targets

* Open to potential cooperation with Israeli players

By Nadine Awadalla and Yousef Saba

DUBAI, Feb 23 (Reuters) - Abu Dhabi-listed food and drinks group Agthia Group is looking into making more acquisitions to turn the company into one of the region's top players in the food and beverage industry, its chief executive said on Tuesday.

After doing a number of deals already Agthia has a "pipeline of ideas" for additional targets to strengthen its position at home and abroad.

"Certainly we want to be a big regional player in the F&B business and more in the consumer space, so we want to move into that branded space where we can start building master brands across the region," CEO Alan Smith said.

Agthia's products include bottled water, dairy products and baked goods.

Smith did not rule out entering new markets, though he said a number of factors would come into play, including whether the company could enter at a large enough scale.

He said Agthia has had conversations with Israeli parties on potential cooperation, but no agreements have been finalised.

Smith also said Agthia had some sub-scale assets that the company was currently reviewing.

Abu Dhabi state-owned holding company ADQ, the corporate structure where Agthia sits, in November signed an agreement to acquire an indirect 45% stake in Louis Dreyfus Co., the first outside investment in the family-owned commodity merchant's 169-year-old history.

"To be honest the Dreyfus transaction is fairly recent and I think we have had some initial conversations just in terms of the commodities space. But at the moment there's no plans to have a conversation with them about (consumer packaged goods) products."

Smith said Agithia, which reported a fall in net profit for 2020, had a strong balance sheet and was comfortable with its debt levels. It has no current plans to tap international debt markets, but may need to in the future, he said. (Writing by Yousef Saba. Editing by Jane Merriman)

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