This latest expansion extends Austrian-based Agrana's presence in the West Balkans sugar market. CEO Johann Marihart said: "The West Balkan region is an important sales market and an interesting growth area for Agrana. The region is also not subject to any quotas imposed by the EU sugar market regime. We plan to jointly continue increasing the market share of the Agrana-Studen Group in the West Balkan region in the period up to 2010." According to Agrana, which is also a key producer of fruit preparations for the bakery and ice-cream industries, the company is currently the leading producer of sugar in Central and Eastern Europe with operations in Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania and Bosnia Herzegovina and a total of nine production facilities. Studen markets white sugar products in Slovenia, Macedonia, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia Herzegovina under the Agragold brand. Agrana describes Studen has a long-time export partner, and currently sells around 130,000 tonnes of sugar in the countries of the West Balkan region. The two companies have already jointly established a raw sugar refinery in Brcko; each with a 50 per cent stake in the joint venture. The refinery has a production capacity of 150,000 tonnes of white sugar per year and is due to start operating this week, according to Agrana. Agrana consolidates position in fruit preparations Last week, the company reported revenue of €1,892.3m in the twelve months to 29 February 2007/2008; a 6 per cent growth in group revenue. Operating profit before exceptionals also increased "Despite difficult fundamentals such as the global commodity boom and speculation in agricultural commodities, combined with the reform of the EU sugar regime, we acquitted ourselves well," said Marihart. "Our strategy of diversification through the three pillars of sugar, starch and fruit, coupled with our strong global expansion especially in the last few years, has definitely proven itself in this challenging market environment, "he added. During 2007/08 the company expanded its position as the world's leading manufacturer of fruit preparations for the dairy, bakery and ice-cream industry, said Marihart. Fruit is the company's highest-revenue segment and generates the largest share of profit. In the company's sugar sector, external revenue saw a decrease of 4 per cent to €751.7m "as the EU quota reduction left sales volumes flat or declining," said Marihart. But the sector's operating profit before exceptionals held steady at €32.6m through a number of measures including energy efficiency improvements and concentration on business locations, he added. The sugar segment accounted for about 40 per cent of group revenue.