Coca Cola factory
Coca Cola's factory in Bnei Brak. Sales in Israel have lost their fizz. Photo by Nir Keider
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Drinks manufacturer Coca-Cola Israel may be moving northward, in exchange for government grants worth tens of millions of shekels.

The company, controlled by Moshe Wertheim, is considering building a factory in the Galilee and is looking to ensure it receives special status to make it eligible for government grants, TheMarker has learned. The factory would be built in the Tzvaim Industrial Park in Beit She'an at a cost of hundreds of millions of shekels.

Coca-Cola responded that such a plan is not under discussion and that it hasn't received an offer from the Industry and Trade Ministry on the matter.

Currently, Coca-Cola Israel's main office and factory is in Bnei Brak. The company employs 2,600 workers and has six distribution centers and a national service center.

Coca-Cola wants the new factory to be considered an anchor factory, which are generally built in areas that have not drawn other enterprise. In order to bring government benefits, the minimum investment in the factory needs to be NIS 300 million, and it needs to employ at least 400 workers.

The Industry and Trade Ministry covers 20% of the cost of building anchor factories. If it's a matter of a company moving its business from the center of the country to the periphery, then the company is eligible for another NIS 15 million to cover expenses.

Coca-Cola's management is negotiating with senior Industry and Trade Ministry officials over the benefits.

Two projects that were granted anchor factory status in Israel's south in 2009 were Tara's moving of its dairy to the Negev and the reoperation of the Timna mines by AHMSA Steel.

The Industry and Trade Ministry has said it is looking to bring two new anchor factories to the north and is believed to be negotiating with two other companies that might be interested in moving their factories north.

Seven years ago, Coca-Cola Israel considered an offer to move its factory from Bnei Brak to Ashkelon at an investment of $110 million. It would have employed 650 local workers as part of the plan. The plan didn't go through, in the wake of public criticism over the size of the government grant the company was going to receive. The government had at first offered NIS 100 million, which it later reduced to NIS 65 million.