Carton_Pack_topnewsgenerali_04/07-18/07

Piano di “turnaround e trasformazione” di Chiquita

Crescente attenzione per i prodotti di quarta gamma e all’innovazione

Il

Chiquita ha presentato ad analisti ed investitori i risultati raggiunti rispetto ai piani di ristrutturazione del 2002 e ha fornito il piano strategico per il prossimo quadriennio.

Cyrus Freidheim, presidente e amministratore delegato, ha dichiarato: “Abbiamo migliorato i risultati della nostra attività principale, l’ortofrutta fresca; abbiamo dismesso molte attività non strategiche, incluso le attività di trasformazione di verdure; ridotto i costi 2003 oltre le previsioni, rafforzato il bilancio e aumentato la nostra quota in Europa e Giappone.

Adesso puntiamo a trasformare la nostra società tramite la diversificazione (quarta gamma frutticola e altre nuove attività), costruendo un nuovo team e una cultura aziendale basata sull’innovazione, migliorando i dati di bilancio con un obiettivo di crescita degli utili netti del 15% nei prossimi quattro anni”.

Quattro sono i punti chiave della strategia 2004-2007:

1. Rafforzare le attività principali (core-business): in particolare nelle banane, puntiamo a ridurre i costi e migliorare la produttività. “In Europa ci stiamo preparando per l’allargamento dell’Unione Europea del 2004 e il passaggio a un mercato di solo tariffe entro il 2006” ha affermato Bob Kistinger, presidente e amministratore delegato di Chiquita Fresh Group “Abbiamo in programma di raddoppiare le vendite di banane in Asia entro il 2007.”

2. Trasformare il portafoglio prodotti, sfruttando la forza del marchio Chiquita tramite prodotti a base di frutta fortemente orientati al consumatore, con margini operativi superiori al 10%. Il nostro obiettivo è di generare 30% del nostro fatturato tramite nuove attività a margini più elevati. Si tratterà principalmente di attività basate su prodotti a base di frutta con elevato valore aggiunto o richiedono qualche tipo di trasformazione. Il primo business è stato lanciato in novembre (Chiquita Fresh Cut Fruit) con ottimi riscontri.

3. Raggiungere un’eccellenza organizzativa

4. Aumentare il valore per gli azionisti

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Comunicato stampa completo in lingua inglese

Chiquita brands international presents “turnaround and transformation” to investors and analysts Reviewed Major 2003 Achievements and Outlined 2004-2007 Strategy

NEW YORK, Dec. 16 — Chiquita Brands International, Inc. (NYSE: CQB) today updated analysts and investors on the company’s progress against its 2002 action plan and provided a new strategic roadmap for the next four years. Cyrus Freidheim, chairman and chief executive officer, said the company’s turnaround was nearing completion. Freidheim declared that the company was now beginning its transformation, in which growth and organizational excellence would become the focus.

“Chiquita has delivered on the major commitments we made to our shareholders in September of last year, thanks to the teamwork and dedication displayed at every level in the company,” Freidheim said. “We improved the performance of our core fresh produce business; sold many non-core assets, including our vegetable canning business; exceeded our 2003 cost reduction targets; strengthened our balance sheet; and increased our share in Europe and Japan.”

Freidheim continued: “Looking forward, we have begun to transform the company by diversifying our earnings stream through Fresh Cut Fruit and other new businesses by taking advantage of one of the world’s most respected — and underleveraged — brands; building a team for the future and creating an innovation-based culture; and improving shareholder value by further strengthening the balance sheet and redeploying invested capital with a goal of achieving 15 percent average net income growth over the next four years.”

Chiquita outlined a four-step strategy for 2004-2007: strengthen the core business; transform the portfolio; achieve organizational excellence; and improve shareholder value.

Strengthen the core business

“To strengthen the core banana business, we must continue to cut costs and improve productivity,” said Bob Kistinger, president and chief operating officer of Chiquita Fresh Group. “We must also improve profitability in North America, which despite impressive strides, remains a challenge. We will do so by cutting costs, exploring ways to reduce invested capital, and by innovation, including new products, packaging, marketing, channels and distribution.

“In Europe, which is our biggest market and where the Chiquita brand commands a price premium, we are preparing for the enlargement of the European Union in 2004 and the transition to a tariff-only market by 2006,” Kistinger said. He also noted that the company plans to double its banana volume sold in Asia by 2007.

Transform the portfolio

“We intend to transform our business portfolio over the next four years by leveraging the power of the Chiquita brand and focusing on consumer-driven, fruit-based products with operating margins of 10 percent,” said Jill Albrinck, senior vice president of strategy and new business. “Our goal is to have 30 percent of our revenues from new, higher-margin businesses by 2007.” Chiquita will use a disciplined process and strict criteria to decide what those businesses should be. “Most of our new businesses will focus on fruit products that are value-added, or require some degree of processing, since these products generally have higher margin potential,” Albrinck said. “Our first new business — Chiquita Fresh Cut Fruit — launched in November, and consumer feedback has been outstanding.”

Achieve organizational excellence

The company’s third commitment is to achieve the kind of organizational excellence that makes transformation possible. “First and foremost, that means building the right team for the future by adding the necessary brand, consumer and operational skills at every level of the company, including the top,” Freidheim said. “We must create a culture that pursues and rewards innovation. It also means upgrading basic infrastructure, like systems, that help world-class organizations achieve outstanding results.”

Improve shareholder value

“Improving shareholder value is a product of executing well on the new strategy,” said James Riley, senior vice president and chief financial officer. “It’s also a function of the right capital structure, which is why one of our goals is to achieve investment-grade financial performance by 2005.” Riley noted that the company would complete a new, more flexible bank facility by June 2004 and look to opportunistically redeem or refinance its 10.56 percent senior notes.

On the issue of dividends, the company said it would stick to the timetable set forth last year and consider paying dividends or repurchasing stock for 2005. “As the company has achieved some of its goals ahead of schedule, investors have asked — and we carefully considered — the issue of paying a dividend or buying back stock.

“It’s clear we must broaden our earnings stream to improve shareholder value,” Riley said. “As we have divested non-core assets, we have become more dependent on bananas and on Europe. It’s also clear we have investment opportunities to leverage our powerful brand. Growth and new businesses require capital. In addition, given the upcoming regulatory changes in Europe and the fact that we emerged from bankruptcy less than two years ago, we elected to readdress the issue late next year.”

About Chiquita Brands International

Chiquita Brands International is a leading international marketer, producer and distributor of high-quality bananas and other fresh produce, which are sold primarily under the premium Chiquita(R) brand. The company is one of the largest banana producers in the world and a major supplier of bananas in North America and Europe. The company also distributes and markets fresh-cut fruit and other branded, value-added fruit products. Additional information is available at www.chiquita.com.

This press release contains certain statements that are “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These statements are subject to a number of assumptions, risks and uncertainties, many of which are beyond the control of Chiquita, including: the impact of changes in the European Union banana import regime expected to occur in connection with the anticipated enlargement of the E.U. in 2004 and the anticipated conversion to a tariff-only regime in 2006; prices for Chiquita products; availability and costs of products and raw materials; currency exchange rate fluctuations; natural disasters and unusual weather conditions; operating efficiencies; labor relations; the continuing availability of financing; the company’s ability to realize its announced cost-reduction goals; and other market and competitive conditions.

The company has international operations in many foreign countries, including those in Central and South America, the Philippines and the Ivory Coast. The company must continually evaluate the risks in these countries, including Colombia, where an unstable environment has made it increasingly difficult to do business. In these countries, the company faces government regulation, currency restrictions and other restraints, risks of burdensome taxes, expropriation, threats to employees, political instability and terrorist activities, including extortion, and risks of U.S. and foreign governmental action in relation to the company. As disclosed in Chiquita’s public filings, the company is currently dealing with one such issue that it has brought to the attention of the appropriate U.S. authorities. Management currently believes the matter can be resolved in a manner that is not material to the company, although there can be no assurance in this regard.

 

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