Dabur India Considers Expanding To Overseas Markets
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Dabur India Considers Expanding To Overseas Markets

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Dabur India Ltd., a major consumer goods manufacturer controlled by the billionaire Burman family, is on the lookout for acquisitions in India and Southeast Asia as it seeks to establish a presence in a new overseas market amid fierce domestic competition.

Following the $71 million acquisition of spice producer Badshah Masala Pvt Ltd. in October, the 139-year-old company, which sells traditional Ayurvedic medicine and herbal products such as toothpaste and shampoo, is evaluating other targets in the health, food, and personal care markets, according to Chief Executive Officer Mohit Malhotra.

“There are a lot of opportunities,” Malhotra, 53, said in an interview at Dabur’s headquarters in the New Delhi satellite city of Ghaziabad. “The valuations as relative to what they were in the past have become more reasonable now.” He declined to name any brands or firms on his radar.

The expansion comes as Dabur faces increased competition from deep-pocketed rivals swooping in on upstart Indian brands, including global consumer titan Unilever Plc. Powerful Indian conglomerates led by two of Asia's wealthiest men, Mukesh Ambani and Gautam Adani, have ambitious plans to expand in the household retail space, as does Tata Consumer Products Ltd., which is looking to expand its portfolio through acquisitions.

Last year, Hindustan Unilever Ltd. acquired wellness brand Zywie Ventures Pvt. and a minority stake in health supplement maker Nutritionalab Pvt., while Adani Wilmar Ltd. acquired McCormick Switzerland's Kohinoor ready-made curries and rice label.

Dabur has also been struggling with high inflation, which has reduced Indians' purchasing power, particularly in the country's rural hinterland, where the company makes half of its sales.

Dabur, which already sells its products in over 120 countries, is also looking for partnerships to help it establish a presence in Southeast Asia.

“Southeast Asia is where we are not present, our competitors are all present in Southeast Asia,” Malhotra said. “The immediate environment is very volatile with currencies playing havoc, I think once this settles down, then we might look at some inorganic opportunity.”

While Reserve Bank of India Governor Shaktikanta Das said last week that demand in rural India was improving, Malhotra said inflation, which has been above the central bank's target of 6% for much of the year, is still "pinching the business big time."

His concerns echo those of Sanjiv Mehta, the CEO of Unilever's Indian arm, who warned last month that rural India's volumes still have a "long way to go" before fully recovering.

Dabur's earnings have also been impacted, with net income falling 5.4% in the most recent quarter, falling short of analyst expectations as costs rose and operating margins shrank. So far this year, the company's stock has fallen 5.2%.

“The business environment in India continues to be pretty challenging,” Malhotra said. “The next quarter is also going to be pretty tough, so we don’t see inflation actually getting tame — but next year going forward things will become a little better.”