Tue | Oct 20, 2020

Buyer found for Jamaica Beverages

Published:Friday | October 2, 2020 | 12:19 AM
Wilfred Baghaloo, trustee for Jamaica Beverages Limited.
Wilfred Baghaloo, trustee for Jamaica Beverages Limited.

Jamaica Beverages Limited, JBL, the insolvent manufacturer of juice and milk products that was put up for sale last November, has found a buyer.

Wilfred Baghaloo, a director of PricewaterhouseCoopers Jamaica who was appointed as JBL trustee three years ago, told the Financial Gleaner that they are advanced in finalising the sale, but could not say more due to confidential agreements.

The trustees received seven bids for the business last year, but the selection process was slowed due largely to the outbreak of COVID-19 in March.

Jamaica Beverages’ business and assets were put up for sale in November 2019 to settle a court-awarded judgment amounting to US$4.5 million, following the attempted robbery of an employee who was shot on a property owned by the company in Montego Bay, St James, and paralysed in four limbs. The trustees were looking to fetch at least US$4.5 million from the sale of the business, equivalent to the court award.

Trinidadian-owned Jamaica Beverages was already experiencing financial difficulties at the time of the court judgment, stemming from the acquisition of assets, including lands and a factory at Bog Walk, St Catherine, of Jamaica Citrus Growers Limited – an association of citrus growers that was in receivership at the time – under a $1-billion deal that included upgrades to the operation and the licence to the Juciful brand.

By 2016, JBL’s parent company SM Jaleel had ordered the scale back of the Jamaican operation, which involved outsourcing its local distribution to Caribbean Producers Jamaica Limited and shutting down the Naggo Head plant in Portmore, St Catherine.

The company filed for bankruptcy protection in May 2017 after the court determined the damages payable to the employee, inclusive of interest.

Aside from the Portmore facility, Jamaica Beverages has a 14-acre complex in Bog Walk, St Catherine, where it produces Juciful juices, milks, as well as Fruta juice drink. Its assets also include two chill rooms with over 74,000 cubic feet of capacity, and three cold rooms with over 98,000 cubic feet of capacity.

The company, which has 80 employees, continues to operate in the interim until the sale is completed, or until the joint trustees reach agreement on a restructuring plan with the creditors, including the attorneys of the former employee.

karena.bennett@gleanerjm.com