Since 2002, the American giant Coca-Cola has been trying to roll out a plan to make the Spanish group Equatorial Coca-Cola Bottling Company (ECCBC), owned by the Catalan family Daurella, its exclusive bottler in Morocco. For twenty years, the Atlanta firm and its Spanish partner have multiplied the proposals to acquire the Moroccan bottlers of Coca-Cola who have stood up to them for a long time. Today, the American lemonade maker and the Daurella family are not far from achieving their goal.

The Spanish Equatorial Coca-Cola Bottling Company (“ECCBC”) announced on November 2 that it had reached an agreement to acquire the bottler of Coca-Cola in the northern and eastern regions of Morocco, Atlas Bottling Company (ABC), with its majority shareholder Diana Holding SA (Diana Holding) and certain minority shareholders.

The deal was carried out through North Africa Bottling Company (NABC), the Moroccan subsidiary of ECCBC, a company which brings together all the commercial activities of the Spanish industrial group COBEGA on the African continent, and which is 70% controlled by the Catalan family company and 30% by The Coca-Cola Company. This is how ECCBC is the bottler/distributor of the Atlanta lemonade in 13 African countries (Algeria, Cape Verde, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea-Conakry, Equatorial Guinea, Liberia, Morocco, Mauritania, Sao Tome and Príncipe, Sierra Leone, South Sudan).

Today, by taking exclusive control of Atlas Bottling Company in Morocco, the Spanish group based in Barcelona and belonging to the Daurella family, one of the richest in Spain, is in the process of completing the universal project in Morocco of its American partner, the multinational “The Coca-Cola Export Company”: “one country, one bottler”. As a reminder, if this Catalan family is active in distribution, catering or even real estate, it is indeed the partnership with Coca-Cola which constitutes the heart of this empire now headed by Sol Daurella, 55 years old. Besides ECCBC, Cobega owned Iberian Partners, the bottler of famous American brands in Spain. The latter merged in August 2015 with two other major European Coca-Cola bottlers, creating the Atlanta firm’s largest partner in the world. Sol Daurella, with 34% of the capital, is the president.

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But in Morocco, to make their dream come true, the Daurella family and the American firm still have to convince the Belhassan group to sell them the Société des Boissons Gazeuses du Souss (SBGS), the only bottler outside the scope of the Moroccan subsidiary of the Spanish group ECCBC.

Approached several times since 2002 for a possible sale of their company, the Belhassen family remained inflexible. But a possible deal would be soon, according to a source familiar with the matter. Thus, in the event of successful negotiations with SBGS, Equatorial Coca-Cola Bottling Company would become the sole bottler of Coca-Cola in Morocco.

Since the early 2000s, the Atlanta giant Coca-Cola has encouraged a large concentration of its bottlers, from Morocco to Egypt, in order to have only one partner per country, or even per region. from the continent. Since then also, this movement foreshadows a great redistribution of the cards throughout Africa.

At that time, Morocco had several bottlers franchised by the American giant, who managed seven bottling companies set up respectively in Tangier, Casablanca, Fez, Oujda, Marrakech, Agadir and Salé. The Société des Brasseries du Maroc (SBM), via its Casablanca bottling company, has also started distributing Coca-Cola. In 1997, the Coca-Cola company, via its Moroccan subsidiary, bought the bottler Société Industrielle Marocaine (SIM) and thus acquired a second production unit in Casablanca, in addition to that of Brasseries du Maroc. Two years later, Coca-Cola again bought the units in Fez and Marrakech, initially belonging to the Benabdallah family. A situation that led to the establishment of various Coca-Cola bottlers, in particular the Central Company of Soft Drinks (SCBG) for Casablanca and Salé, the Atlas Bottling Company for Tangier and Oujda, the Company of Soft Drinks of the South for the city of Marrakech (CBGS), the North Soft Drinks Company for the city of Fez (CBGN), as well as the Soft Drinks Company of Souss (SBGS) for Agadir.

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It is in this context that the Spanish group COBEGA landed in the Kingdom in November 2002 to buy from Coca Cola the production units of the city of Marrakech (CBGS) and Fez (CBGN) for a total amount of 84.18 millions of dollars.

In April 2003, SNI sold Castel a control block in SBM, a subsidiary of the French Castel group, which at the time included SCBG within its scope. A few weeks later, the Atlanta giant, annoyed at not having been consulted and, even less, associated with the operation to change control of SCBG, notified SBM that it was putting an end to their industrial partnership (a right that Coca-Cola assumes with all its bottlers). Back to the wall, Castel has no choice but to sell SCBG. Something he did in the process by selling 100% of this subsidiary to the Spanish ECCBC via its subsidiary NABC. The latter, which owns, suddenly, the bottling unit of Casablanca but also the unit of Fez and that of Marrakech, not to mention COBOMI, which is responsible, among other things, for the bottling of cans, PET drinks, of Ciel water and Pulpy (juice) at the Technopole de Nouaceur, becomes, de facto, the first Moroccan bottler of Coca-Cola products.

Atlas Bottling Company, owned by Diana Holding, has units in Tangier and Oujda to supply the north of the country. But, since then, this bottler has entered the bosom of the Spanish group for a transaction of 1.7 billion DH. It should be noted that in its strategy, NABC has closed the Fez factory for a year and that of Tit Mellil (Casablanca) for almost three years.

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This means that there is only the supply of the South, provided by the SBGS of the Belhassan group which owns a bottling plant in Agadir, which for the time being escapes the COBEGA-Coca Cola duo.

While waiting to reach an agreement with the Belhassan group to finally become the exclusive bottler of Coca-Cola in the kingdom, the Spanish group is revamping its integrated bottling platform. It has just benefited from a total of loans of 70 million euros, piloted by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a subsidiary of the World Bank assigned to the private sector, to develop its green operations and investments, particularly in Morocco, in Algeria and Ghana.

For the Kingdom, EECBC plans to set up a new line of packaged drinking water in its COBOMI plant. This will replace the existing line and will allow a reduction in the use of plastic. In addition, its factories in Morocco should start using green energy then through the installation of solar panels and the construction of a solar power plant. Remember that until before the acquisition of Atlas Bottling Company, the Moroccan subsidiary of the Spanish group NABC achieved a consolidated turnover of more than 4 billion DH.

Coca-Cola and the Spanish Daurella family on the verge of realizing their Moroccan dream