Rut Aranda: "We will return to profitability in 2024"

  • "We are going to end this year with a 3% increase in volume".
  • "The search for a new investor for the Venta de Baños plant is already underway.

With more than 20 years of experience in the company, this agricultural engineer pilots the new Cerealto Siro after being bought by Afendis and Davidson Kempner. In her first interview as general manager to the media, she explains the plans to return the agri-food giant to profitability.

A few weeks ago, CEO Cem Karakas held meetings with the staff. What message did he convey to management and workers?

We are fundamentally talking about the future, about the company's strategy, about what we want to be, how we want to present ourselves to the market and how to implement the 2023-2025 Plan. And what we want is to be the preferred supplier of our strategic customers based on quality, price and innovation, and with the execution of this Plan we guarantee the sustainability and future of the company. Translated with (free version)

What are the priorities?

We are going to work with a much more simplified reference portfolio and much more focused on long-term customers. In Operations we have a clear focus on quality and efficiency, with a more optimised industrial map. We are also reviewing all our processes to make them simpler and facilitate decision making. This will make us a leaner and more efficient company.

The purchase of the company by Afendis and Davidson Kempner led to the approval of a Competitiveness Plan. How are the workers responding?

We have lived through a very difficult period and the collaborators are very aware of this difficulty and complexity and are responding very well to a Plan that is proposing solutions. And what we are seeking to do with them is to empower them to make their own decisions. We are starting a new stage, which is already reflected in a Strategic Plan that we are going to manage with total transparency and communication with them.

Last year you closed with a loss of 41 million. What is your forecast for this year?

We are going to finish better than last year. What we can say today is that we are going to end the year with a 3% increase in volume compared to 2021, but also with a different and much more efficient portfolio for the company, in which we have abandoned references and customers that were less sustainable for the company.

What is your timetable for a return to positive results?

Somos capaces de decir que en 2024 esperamos ya resultados positivos. Es un gran reto para toda la organización y estamos plenamente convencidos de ello.

Many people wonder how Cerealto Siro got into such a critical situation?

There is never a single factor and many things came together. It was a company that was carrying very strong growth investments and also the pandemic, Brexit... This meant that it was unable to meet its financial commitments. Now we want to focus on the future.

An investment plan of 40 million over three years has been announced. How will it be implemented?

We are going to do it gradually in all factories depending on the state and need of each one and of the business. Approximately 45% are investments related to capacity or new products, 25% related to quality and safety and the remaining 30% to improvements and efficiencies. In addition to the 40 million, the new ownership injected 50 million at the beginning to stabilise the relationship with suppliers.

How is business going in the UK, Italy, Portugal and Mexico, and what are the plans for those plants?

Here we have made a change and we have gone from having a centralised and transversal organisation to managing it in four individual business units: Iberia (Spain and Portugal), Italy, America (Mexico) and England. In the latter case, we are going to manage it as a unit outside the perimeter of Cerealto Siro, totally independent. This allows us to have a much more vertical vision of the business and to respond to the need for much more agile decision-making, thinking locally.

Could they be subject to divestment?

There is no divestment plan beyond the Competitiveness Plan that was signed. Cerealto Siro is committed to these plants but with a more decentralised management. All the business units have to be profitable and if they are not, decisions have to be taken to make them profitable, otherwise they would weigh down the profitability of the whole group.

Mercadona is your main customer, how is the relationship with them going?

Mercadona is a very important customer for us. As I said before, our strategy is one of long-term relationships with customers and we have had this with Mercadona for many years. It is very good, constructive and cordial and we expect it to remain as stable as it has been up to now. Obviously Mercadona wants quality and competitive products and we have to be there to provide them with them, just like any other customer, because we work with large multinational brands that are in the top 10 in the food sector.

One of the points of the agreement is to maintain the Venta de Baños plant for two years in order to look for possible investors. Are there already contacts?

It is a process that has already been set in motion and in which we are collaborating with the Ministry of Industry, the Junta de Castilla y León and the works council. We expect results between the first and second quarter of next year.

Access the interview by clicking here.

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