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Alpcot hires new boss in bid to boost Ukraine unit

Alpcot Agro appointed a, temporary, managing director over the head of current boss Jens Peter Aabyen in a drive to boost the performance of its business in Ukraine, where the group has forecast a sharp improvement in yields.

The Black Sea farm operator appointed 56-year old Ulf Scholander as its group managing director, a position held by Mr Aabyen, aged 41, since April 2011.

The appointment of a new boss "is a natural development of Alpcot Agro entering a new phase", after the acquisition of rival Landkom International last year, Fredrik Langenskiöld, the Alpcot chairman, said.

The Landkom purchase "which increased the size of our Ukraine operations several times over… has led to new challenges in relation to coordination on a group level and operational administration, management and control in Ukraine", Mr Langenskiöld said.

'Focus on Ukraine'

Indeed, Mr Scholander, a former managing director of the Russian operations of recycling group Stena Metall, "will focus particularly on Ukraine", where Alpcot has promised an improvement after seeing a drop in yields last year.

Yields of winter rapeseed, the group's top Ukrainian crop by area, fell by 19% to 2.2 tonnes per hectare, with those for winter wheat down 18% at 3.7 tonnes per hectare, and for corn, the major crop by volume, falling 23% to 7.2 tonnes per hectare.

Alpcot last month said that the decline in productivity reflected the poorer performance of Landkom fields, and said it "therefore expects to bring considerable yield improvements across the Ukraine business going forward".

The group's shares have remained nonetheless well below highs above SEK18 reached in October 2009.

UkrAgroConsult, the Kiev-based consultancy, has forecast a sharp improvement in Ukraine's grain harvest as a whole, given a strong start to autumn-planted crops.

Stop-gap measure

However, Mr Scholander looks set to be only a temporary boss, with his term as managing director "likely to be limited to a term of a maximum of one year".

Alpcot said its board is "working on a more long-term solution".

Mr Aabyen "has made a very good job, and built up a professional organisation, in Russia", where he will remain country manager.

Alpcot shares closed unchanged at SEK 5.50 in Stockholm.

Many Black Sea farm operators have found staffing issues tricky, with Landkom suffering a series of changes, including the departure of three board members within four month in 2009.

Russia-based Black Earth Farming undertook a series of management reshuffles before appointing Richard Warburton as chief executive in 2011.

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