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INTERVIEW-Food firm Ajinomoto targets deals in growth march

* CEO says likely to need deals to meet targets

* Open to big or small deals, local or global

* Sees foreign sales reaching 60 pct of total by 2020

PARIS, June 18 (Reuters) - Japan's Ajinomoto Co may not have found a partner in French ingredients company Diana Group, but unlike the famous Paul Anka love song - a favourite of CEO Masatoshi Ito - the food company is moving on, and looking for other deals.

Ajinomoto, which sells seasonings and other food ingredients, set ambitious medium-term targets earlier this year, with the ultimate goal of becoming a global food manufacturer with a market value on a par with the likes of Campbell Soup or Grupo Bimbo, which are around the median size for the top 25 global food companies.

It is aiming for operating income of 91 billion yen ($892 million) in fiscal 2016, a 47 percent jump from the 62 billion yen ($608 million) it forecast in fiscal 2013. Its vision for 2020 and beyond calls for profit of 150 billion yen.

Ito admits the company, whose current market value is $9.4 billion compared with around $14 billion for its bigger rivals, is unlikely to get there without acquisitions.

Ajinomoto was reported to be in the running for French ingredients firm Diana, which last month struck a 1.3 billion euro ($1.8 billion) deal with Germany's Symrise.

But Ito appears undeterred, saying the firm was open to acquisitions both in ingredients and packaged foods, and ranging from small purchases that could be bolted on to existing businesses to transformative transactions.

"For example, if a certain acquisition could give us a huge advantage that we haven't had so far, of course that would lead to a high valuation," Ito said in an interview ahead of the Consumer Goods Forum, which starts in Paris on Wednesday.

Ito said geography only matters when it comes to food brands. When it comes to ingredients or seasoning technologies that would have applications across its portfolio, they could be based anywhere, he said.

He declined to say whether Ajinomoto had bid for Wild Flavors, which put itself up for sale earlier this year in a process expected to value the German firm at 1.5 billion euros.

"It is at a very, very, very early stage," Ito said.

Reuters has reported that other bidders for Wild, which has a stable of flavours, extracts and seasonings derived from natural sources, include Archer Daniels Midland, Tate & Lyle and Givaudan.

Ajinomoto is not the only Japanese food or drink maker looking West. Last month, Mizkan Group agreed to buy Unilever's Ragu and Bertolli pasta sauces for $2.15 billion, while Suntory Holdings closed a $16 billion takeover of bourbon maker Beam in April. Last year, Suntory Beverage & Food agreed to buy UK drinks Lucozade and Ribena from GlaxoSmithKline.

"It is important to increase international sales," Ito said, noting that Ajinomoto already derives half of its sales and 60 percent of its profits outside its home market, where it is known for its namesake MSG seasoning, Hondashi seasoning and Cook Do flavouring mixes.

Since sales are growing faster outside Japan, Ito said international markets should account for 60 percent by 2020. In countries where it is seeing particularly strong growth - Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Brazil - it plans to double or triple sales.

The company, which also sells frozen dumplings and instant noodles, is also trying to boost its margins by focusing on so-called "added-value" products such as specialized seasonings, which are more profitable than its commodity products, which include aspartame sweeteners and amino acids for cattle feed.

($1 = 102.0500 Japanese Yen)

($1 = 0.7345 Euros)

(Editing by Mark Potter) ))