* Prices to be driven by higher exports, lower output
* Biodiesel mandates to boost Indonesia, Malaysia consumption
* FGV to cut workforce, shut mills in efficiency drive (Updates with comments, background, details)
KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 28 (Reuters) - Malaysia’s FGV Holdings Berhad, the world’s largest crude palm oil producer, forecast palm oil prices trending between 2,000 and 2,500 ringgit a tonne this year.
Prices in 2019 will be driven by increasing exports to key markets, lower inventory levels and production, and higher domestic consumption due to stronger biodiesel mandates in Indonesia and Malaysia, the company said in a statement.
FGV earlier on Thursday reported a swing to a fourth-quarter net loss from a profit in the same period of 2017, hurt by impairment losses, provisions and lower palm oil prices.
It reported a net loss of 208.8 million ringgit ($51.31 million) for the quarter to end-December, compared with a 50.4 million ringgit profit a year earlier.
Revenue stood at 3.2 billion ringgit, down from 4.3 billion ringgit last year, in line with lower crude palm oil prices.
Impairments and provisions of 240 million ringgit were due to a company restructuring that trimmed the number of employees, and to asset write-offs and a reduction in receivables.
As part of operational efficiency measures for this year, FGV said it planned to divest its non-core and non-performing assets with expected proceeds of 350 million ringgit, trim its manpower by 10 percent, and shut six of its mills from this year to 2021.
“In certain areas we have limited amounts of fresh fruit bunches (FFB), so if you have too many mills in certain concentrations, then the utilization (rates) will be low unless you go buy crops from a third party,” said Chief Executive Officer Haris Fadzilah Hassan at a press conference after the company’s results were released.
“We are looking for opportunities like that so we can have more FFB going into a particular mill. We could be closing some of these less efficient plants or smaller capacities so we can have a better throughput.”
FGV has changed its top management in recent months amid investigations into its business practices. The company has been plagued by allegations of poor management, and its share price has declined by about 80 percent since its listing in 2012.
The company’s performance has also been impacted by a decline in benchmark palm oil prices, which shed over 15 percent last year due to slow demand and high inventory levels.
$1 = 4.0690 ringgit Reporting by Emily Chow; Editing by Richard Pullin and Tom Hogue