x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Profits flow for Agthia with bottled water rise

A 20 per cent rise in bottled water sales helped profits flow at an Abu Dhabi food producer.

Ilias Assimakopoulos, the chief executive of Agthia, at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre. Ravindranath K / The National
Ilias Assimakopoulos, the chief executive of Agthia, at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre. Ravindranath K / The National

A substantial rise in bottled water sales helped profits to flow for an Abu Dhabi food producer.

Agthia's bottled water business has grown about a fifth year-on-year, supporting a 54 per cent surge in net profits in the first nine months of this year.

The company, which owns the Al Ain Mineral Water brand, said expanded and improved distribution channels helped to drive the 20 per cent growth of the bottled water business. And there is room for more growth, according to the group's chief executive, Ilias Assimakopoulos.

"We believe that the water business still has quite a growth movement in the UAE, especially in the Northern Emirates, which is a key growth opportunity for us," said Mr Assimakopoulos.

Exports are 10 to 15 per cent of Agthia's bottled water business, he said, so the company does not expect to be greatly affected by a law banning the export of the UAE's groundwater, which is expected to come into effect late next year.

"The source of the water for us is clearly segregated, so we have the purified water and we have the well water. So we have the capability to identify the source of our water, trace it and virtually bypass the [rule]," he added.

The company has this year completed its acquisition of Pelit Su, a Turkish spring water company, which is in the midst of rebranding as Alpin.

"This facility and spring is located in the south-west part of Turkey, so obviously we are very pleased with the water source. There is a good original market we can compete," said Mr Assimakopoulos.

But not all Agthia's overseas operations are a cause for such celebration. The Egyptian business, which has struggled for the past couple of years is being "refocused", according to Mr Assimakopoulos.

The company plans to cut the number of its product offerings in the country to focus on tomato paste and chilli paste, which Agthia makes at a manufacturing facility it set up in Egypt in 2009.

"We would like to limit the offering in frozen veg and fruit to some very specific products where we can have scale and better numbers. Of the fruit purées as well we would like to limit our offering," said Mr Assimakopoulos.

gduncan@thenational.ae