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Mexico’s Femsa to spend on acquisitions in 2012

* Expects to find uses for $600 mln in net cash this year
* Co also plans to invest $1.1 bln in capex in 2012

Mexican retailer and beverage company Femsa expects to spend its cash on expanding its convenience store chain and its bottling unit, Coca-Cola Femsa, its chief financial officer said on Tuesday.

The company, which has more than $600 million in cash on hand, also expects to spend about $1.1 billion in capital investments this year, Javier Astaburuaga told analysts on a call on Tuesday.

"We recognize that 600 million dollars excess cash... is a lot of money," he said, adding that the company expects to spend that money this year. "I cannot really be more specific...at the time being, but we feel very confident we will find uses for that cash during 2012."

Femsa, which also holds a 20 percent stake in Heineken after selling its beer division to the Dutch brewer in 2010, sees some opportunities in small-format retail, Astaburuaga said, without giving more details.

The company already runs the rapidly-growing Oxxo chain of convenience stores in Mexico and Colombia as well as a bottling joint venture with The Coca-Cola Co called Coca-Cola Femsa.

Femsa's $1.1-billion capital budget consists of about $700 million for acquisitions and expansion at Coke Femsa , the world's largest Coke bottler, and about $350 million mostly dedicated to expanding its Oxxo convenience stores, he said.

Femsa opened more than 1,000 Oxxo stores last year to end the year with 9,561 stores.

Coke Femsa said earlier this month it is considering buying a Coke bottler in the Philippines.

On a separate call with analysts, Coke Femsa's Chief Financial Officer Hector Trevino declined to comment on the likelihood of that deal going ahead and said the company will begin due diligence in earnest in the region after Easter.

It would be the first step outside of Latin America for Coke Femsa.

Femsa shares were up 1.8 percent at 97.42 pesos while Coke Femsa shares were down 0.6 percent at 129.16 pesos.

29 Feb. 2012

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