* Maspex CEO says too early for stock exchange debut
* Sees IPO as good way to hand company over in future
* Firm dedicated to CEE region, expects inflation to boost sales
By Agnieszka Barteczko
WARSAW, Feb 7 (Reuters) - The founders of Polish food and juice producer Maspex will likely delay a flotation until a sizeable acquisition comes up or handing over the company becomes inevitable, its chief executive said.
Some investors have been eager for a chance to buy into Maspex, seen as one of Central and Eastern Europe’s (CEE) top Initial Public Offering (IPO) candidates, to tap into growing consumer demand in the region.
Investment bankers say privately they have beaten a path several times to Maspex’s headquarters in Wadowice, southern Poland, to try to convince the owners to list shares.
However, Chief Executive Krzysztof Pawinski, one of the company’s founders and owners, indicated to Reuters that change may not come until the original investors, aged in their 50s, decide to bow out of the business altogether.
“The fact that as the co-owners we have been together for more than 25 years is unique, but we are not that naive to assume that the group of our relatives would be as much in agreement as we are,” Pawinski told Reuters.
“This is why the stock exchange is a good place for Maspex at some point in the future, but now it is not the time and there is not the need,” he added in a telephone interview.
The generational change in Polish private firms founded in the 1990s is a phenomenon noted by many investment bankers and private equity funds. Buy-out firms often offer to invest in such family companies as the younger generation is rarely interested in continuing their parents’ work.
Maspex was founded in 1990, just after the collapse of communism, by six Polish students. They have since transformed a small venture packing and selling coffee milk powder into one of the biggest food companies in CEE with annual sales at around 4 billion zlotys ($993 million).
Maspex is known for brands such as carrot juice Kubus or Lubella pasta in Poland, Plusssz vitamin suplement in Hungary and the Relax drink in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Maspex has grown mostly though acquisitions of recognised brands, like the mineral water Bucovina in Bulgaria it acquired in 2016. With its own funds and bank loans it has taken over 18 companies, including 10 outside Poland.
“If we do not have this (bank support), and a really big acquisition comes up on the horizon, we would not have any problems with sharing our ownership,” Pawinski said.
Maspex, which assumes a single-digit revenue growth this year, plans to stick to CEE markets, which it expects to expand thanks to their growing economies, falling unemployment and rising inflation.
This year the group wants to invest more than 350 million zlotys compared to around 200 million in 2016.
“The countries in western Europe are interesting too, but they do not have this sex appeal of Central and Eastern Europe,” Pawinski said. ($1 = 4.0275 zlotys) (Reporting by Agnieszka Barteczko; Editing by Keith Weir)