'One day we'll be back in Syria,' says Nestlé chief

Food giant reveals 23 percent rise in business losses due to MidEast conflict
'One day we'll be back in Syria,' says Nestlé chief
Yves Manghardt, chairman and CEO of Nestlé Middle East and Marco Settembri, executive vice-president at Nestlé pictured addressing media this week at the opening of its $145 million new plant in Dubai South
By Sarah Townsend
Wed 17 May 2017 02:53 PM

The chairman and CEO of Nestlé Middle East has pledged the company will “one day be back in Syria”, after its factory outside Damascus burned to the ground in 2013.

A warehouse next to the Nestlé foods factory in the Syrian village of Khan Cheik caught fire after it was hit by a mortar round during fighting.

The fire spread to the part of the factory responsible for manufacturing Nestlé Maggi Bouillon (soups or broths), and a production line went up in flames.

Nestlé has been impacted by conflict in Syria, Yemen and Iraq, with Yves Manghardt revealing on Tuesday that wars in the ravaged Middle East nations have cost its business $270 million to date – 23 percent higher than it was when Arabian Business last interviewed the Swiss chairman in October.

Speaking to Arabian Business at the opening of its $145 million new plant in Dubai South, Manghardt lamented the destruction of the Syrian factory and insisted he was “optimistic” the company would return.

“The positive side is with Iraq, where we have started to see stabilisation, at least, of our sales activities,” he said.

“Unfortunately for Syria and Yemen, the situation is further aggravated, both by conflict and restriction on imports, so we are still suffering.

“Altogether since the peak in 2012, it’s an overall loss of $270 million but we are confident in the long term and we know that one day we will be back in Syria.

“We lost our factory in 2013, but we will be back and we remain optimistic. We still have people there and we are confident that one day we will be able to pick again with more normal activity.”

His colleague, Marco Settembri, executive vice-president at Nestlé, added: “When you talk of instability, look at the world: we are in Venezuela, we are in Cuba – we are one of the very few multinationals that have never left Cuba and it’s possible we would never have left Syria if we could have stayed.

“We had one of the best factories in the world and lots of good people in Syria who we continue to employ in spite of the fact that we are not able to supply [the country] regularly with products.”

Nestlé ME’s new Dubai factory will manufacture Maggi soups and bouillons, and Nescafé products.

Manghardt said political stability in the UAE was a “key benefit” for the company and that, together with ease of doing business and a thriving industrial sector, had given Nestlé “strong incentive to invest here”.

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