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URC to open biofuel plant in PH, factory in Burma

Universal Robina Corp. of the Gokongwei group is building a bioethanol plant at its sugar milling complex in Negros Oriental, and will soon open a new factory in Burma.

During their annual meeting late Wednesday, URC shareholders approved an amendment to the company’s charter, allowing the food and commodity conglomerate to engage in ethanol production as a secondary purpose.

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Lance Gokongwei, URC president, told reporters after the meeting that the company had started construction of a $27-million bioethanol plant in Manjuyod, Negros Oriental, the site of its sugar mill Universal Robina Sugar Milling Corp. (Ursumco). The bioethanol facility can produce 100,000 liters of fuel a day.

Once the bioethanol plant becomes operational in the latter part of next year, Gokongwei said, it would contribute a little over 1 percent to group-wide revenues, which in 2011 amounted to P67.2 billion—up 16.4 percent from the previous year.

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Also, URC has been expanding its footprint abroad. Its international operations currently account for about a third of its business, and may grow as big as its domestic operations in about five years, Gokongwei said.

The conglomerate is now in the process of incorporating a unit in Burma this year, hoping to start commercial operations by 2013, Gokongwei said.

“Burma has 60 million people and it’s part of our strategy to set up infrastructure for manufacturing and distribution in all the large population countries in the Asean [Association of Southeast Nations]. We think Burma is opening up. It would be probably be worthwhile to enter, start planting seeds earlier rather than later,” he explained.

URC’s international sales increased by 38.9 percent to $443 million last year. Its two biggest markets—Thailand and Vietnam—contributed 75.3 percent of total overseas sales.

Growth in Vietnam, URC’s youngest market but now the biggest outside of the Philippines, has been driven by its tea business and snacks.

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TAGS: biofuel plant, Burma, Business, company, expansion, factory, Philippines, Universal Robina Corp.
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