Central Bottling Suspends Bulgarian Yogurt Launch

After spending years stepping up its activities outside Israel, the Central Bottling Company, widely if inaccurately known as "Coca-Cola Israel," is slowing the pace. Among other things it's suspending its launch of dairy delights in Bulgaria, TheMarker has learned.

In 2007 the Israeli company received a license to work together with the European dairy company M?ller in Romania and Bulgaria, and a year ago it began working in Romania. But Central Bottling has decided to suspend its launch in Bulgaria until further notice, mainly because of the impact of the global economic crisis on Eastern Europe.

Central Bottling operates internationally in several countries, and in several categories too. In July 2008 it acquired the 96% controlling interest in Tuborg Turkey from the multinational Carlsberg, paying $80 million for the privilege after an undisclosed deduction for the company's debt. It's also been making and selling Tuborg beer in Romania since 1995.

In alliance with Carlsberg, Central Bottling developed operations in three countries other than Israel: Romania, Albania and Turkey.

Central Bottling also owns a 51% stake in fruit juice manufacturer Prigat, which it sells around the world, including in the United States, Moldova, Macedonia, Romania, Cyprus - and, yes, Bulgaria.

The company spokesman commented that the group received the franchise for the Muller brand in 2007, for Romania and Bulgaria. It had always been the plan to start operating in Romania first, and only later to enter Bulgaria, which simply hasn't happened yet. "Everything's going according to the original plan," he stated.

In Israel, Central Bottling markets M?ller yogurts and desserts, beers, mineral water, juices and more.