TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's Ajinomoto Co Inc (2802.T) could spend up to $1.7 billion for acquisitions and alliances by the end of the next fiscal year, its president said on Tuesday, as the company hunts for deals to help it grow into a top-10 global food maker.
Takaaki Nishii, who became president in June, told Reuters in an interview that Ajinomoto would look for deals in Europe, which is the company's smallest region by sales.
"We could use 150 to 200 billion yen" ($1.3-$1.7 billion) by March 2017, said Nishii.
"Europe's food market is one of our important targets."
Ajinomoto is ramping up its overseas expansion as it seeks growth outside a shrinking domestic market. The Tokyo-based seasonings maker has said it aims to rank among the 10-biggest food manufacturers by the 2020 fiscal year.
Last year, Ajinomoto bought Texas-based frozen-food maker Windsor Quality Holdings for about $800 million, its biggest ever acquisition, boosting its presence in the U.S. market.
The company is also prioritizing growth in its core "Five Stars" - Brazil, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam - aiming to double or triple revenue in those markets by fiscal 2020 compared with the year ended March 2013.
Ajinomoto last year formed an acquisitions team for Brazil and Thailand, and this year set one up for France.
"In Europe we've had a lot of business-to-business but not much business-to-consumer," Nishii said. "We want to look for a platform so we can do more business-to-consumer."
Reporting by Yu Wang and Ritsuko Shimizu; Editing by Chris Gallagher and Muralikumar Anantharaman