Wed | Dec 13, 2017

Foreign investor dismantles soft drink operation

Published:Wednesday | September 20, 2017 | 12:00 AMAvia Collinder

Rudisa Holdings, which acquired the old Coca-Cola plant in Kingston eight years ago with the intent to manufacture and sell soft drinks in this market, has pulled back from the plan, even as other local beverage producers are adding capacity.

The company, owned by the Sardjoe family of Suriname, is now selling off equipment in a bid to recoup the investment in the plant, located at 693 Spanish Town Road.

"They changed their mind due to a change in their own circumstances," said Gordon Langford of NAI Jamaica Langford and Brown, the company handling the auctioning of the equipment.

Langford said the owners want to sell everything in one lot, but will consider a different strategy if a single buyer does not emerge.

The auction was initially set for Thursday, but has since been postponed.

"If one buyer does not materialise, then the items will be broken into smaller lots," Langford told Gleaner Business. "However, the property itself will not be sold," he said.

At last report, Jamaica's soft-drink market was valued at around US$60 million and is dominated by Wisynco Group, which bottles for Coca-Cola International as well as its own Bigga brand; and PepsiCo Bottling Company Jamaica, which bottles and distributes PepsiCo brands as well as D&G.

"Rudisa did not get to the stage of employing a full workforce, as they never actually got into production," said Langford. "There was no distribution as no brands were produced. Some of the equipment is, therefore, new and never used."

Vice-president of Rudisa Holdings, Warsha Torilal-Sardjoe, told Gleaner Business that the company encountered problems while attempting to ramp up the beverage plant, but did not say what they were.

She said, however, that the company was not ready to give up on Jamaica entirely, commenting: "Not never, but not yet."

Langford said Rudisa was not driven out by competition. But Chairman of Wisynco William Mahfood holds a different view.

"The market is very competitive, and I believe that is why the firm decided not to start here," he said, while noting that the market is likely larger than US$60 million now.

Mahfood did not offer an updated estimate of the market's size, but said Wisynco's share is about 45 per cent.

"With the recent growth in Coca-Cola in the Jamaican market over the past three years, our soda business may have now surpassed D&G and Pepsi," he said.

Surinamese company Rudisa was founded in 1975 and operates subsidiaries in various Caribbean markets, including Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago and Barbados. Its brands include Thrill, Diamond Blue, and Blue Diamond.

The equipment to go on the auction block in Jamaica include cavity blow moulds, filler valves, tanks, conveyors, labeller's, palletizers, standby generator, boiler, air conditioning units, and vaporisers.

"As regard the prices, this is an auction, so the reserve prices are not available," Langford said.

avia.collinder@gleanerjm.com