"Manuchar is actively looking for M&A opportunities from Mexico and Central America where we see great potential related to nearshoring, over to the Andean region."
Manuchar has a presence in 40 countries today – could you elaborate on your footprint and key markets in Latam?
SVL: Manuchar is present in almost every country in the region, from Mexico and the Caribbean, down to Chile and Argentina. Together, the Latam region is responsible for more than 50% of our total invoicing, and this is the continent where we have historically had the longest presence. We participate in different segments, the most prominent being home care, fabric care, human and animal nutrition, personal care and pharma, mining and energy, pulp and paper, as well as crop nutrition. Of course, our presence is country specific. We serve both multinationals and local customers.
What are the most interesting market segments from a short and long-term demand perspective?
SVL: As consumer purchasing power decreased due to higher interest rates, demand has softened and, in some cases, dropped. Yet, growth opportunities always exist – for example in the lithium industry in Argentina and Chile. In the short to medium term, we are looking at a mixed bag.
PH: Brazil is one of the largest fabric care (powder and liquid detergent) markets in the world, as well as one of the largest markets for crop nutrition. Manuchar has been very successful in the supply of water-soluble fertilizers, as the industry shifts away from the traditional granular ones. The pulp and paper industry is also one of the largest by export volumes, while the food ingredients and personal care markets are again huge, with massive investments from MNCs and a range of big domestic players. Mining also makes the cut as one of the prominent industries in the context of electrification and greater demand for battery metals.
How do you react to the current market conditions?
PH: If during the pandemic the market was fully preoccupied with ensuring our products get to the customer on time, now customers are laser-focused on costs. Supply chains have eased, and product abounds because most people do not take stocks today, which means we might see shortages building up again in a few months. Working in emerging markets, it is imperative to adapt immediately. Without this agility, you are at the mercy of the market.
Following your two recent acquisitions in Brazil (Plury Química and Cosmoquimica/Cosmolog), could you comment on your M&A strategy?
SVE: On the one hand, we are seeking opportunities to strengthen or defend our current market positioning, as we have done in the recent acquisitions in Brazil. On the other hand, there are many areas where Manuchar is not yet active, be it regionally, like the US and Europe, but also sector-wise. Plury Química, for instance, allowed us to gain further expertise in the human nutrition segment, as well as consolidating our coverage in the north of Brazil.
Could you share more details about the ManuCare project?
PH: Essentially, this is our social responsibility program focused on improving the lives of the communities around our operations, particularly in the areas of education, whether it is sponsoring scholarships for youth or investing in a local school. Yearly, our team in every country proposes a Manucare project.
Do you have a final message for our audience and APLA members?
PH: Manuchar is committed to the value we can create for local people in the counties we work in. At the same time, the distribution business is subject to many pressures, like regulatory compliance and risk management, which makes it difficult for small players to respond to the needs of the market. As a global distributor, we need local people just as local people need an organization with all the resources at their disposal. This makes us think there is room for further consolidation in this space.
SVE: Manuchar is actively looking for M&A opportunities from Mexico and Central America where we see great potential related to nearshoring, over to the Andean region.
SVL: Chemical distribution is a big part of the solution for the many problems the world is facing today, contributing to the wellbeing and growth of society, and the progress toward sustainability and the energy transition.