Joseph Maurice Jabra, a Lebanese entrepreneur holding a Bulgarian passport, will buy the Bulgarian division of US-based Schreiber Foods. The dairy maker, formerly known as Serdika, was privatized by France's Danone almost 30 years ago and then resold to the US group about a decade ago. The deal has been already approved by the Commission on Protection of Competition. Jabra already owns a dairy company in Bulgaria: MJ Dairies in the town of Karlovo.
The acquisition will create the second biggest dairy group in Bulgaria with sales of 100 million levs (50 million euro). In another transaction earlier this year Sliven-based Tyrbul acquired United Milk Company, thus becoming the leader in dairy production with a turnover of 200 million levs. Strictly speaking, the biggest company in the sector is Milky Bio Group with a 230 million levs turnover in 2021 but most of its sales come from trade in raw materials for the food industry rather than from own dairy production.
The deal will not result in any significant changes on the local market, as MJ Dairies exports 90% of its output, which consists mainly of different types of cheese. Schreiber Foods on the other hand has no own brand: it produces mainly milk and yogurt for the private labels of retailers and other dairy companies. Competition remains strong, as there are more than 200 dairy companies in Bulgaria with 30 of them being large and medium-sized.
Joseph Jabra came to Bulgaria in December 1991 and started a business in trade. Several years later his company, MJ Pack, set up a dairy joint venture with Germany's Meggle, producing mainly cream. In July 2006 Jabra acquired the shares of the German partner and renamed the company to My Day. A new partner, Italy's CO.DA.P., joined the business in 2008 and two years later Jabra sold his shares to it. The company is now called Cremio and is owned by its long-standing manager, Georgi Ganovski. It ranks ninth in the dairy sector.
Meanwhile, in 2004 Jabra bought the dairy farm in Karlovo, Topalitsa, and renamed it to MJ Dairies. The company produces various types of cow, goat and sheep cheese, most of which are typical for Lebanon, Turkey, Armenia, Syria and Kurdistan. More than 90% of the output is exported and sold in ethnic food shops in Europe, the United States, New Zealand, Australia and the Arab countries. "Our biggest market in Europe is Germany. We work with retailers like Sainsbury's, ARLA, Aldi and Lidl. Our best-selling product is BBQLumi," Jabra told the Capital Weekly.
In 2021 MJ Dairies booked 40.3 million levs sales and 1.6 million levs profit. "We expect a turnover of some 46 million levs for 2022," Jabra said. "Since the start of my business in Bulgaria I have invested more than 40 million levs here."
Small business for US giant
Schreiber Foods acquired Danone's production assets in Sofia some 10 years ago but the French group kept the brand, which remained on the market. The US company is one of the biggest dairy producers in the world with revenue exceeding 5 billion dollars. The Bulgarian business, with its turnover of 40 to 60 million levs, was obviously too small for the US giant. The withdrawal has been probably planned for some time, as the company has not invested in the factory for the past few years and has been booking losses of some 3 million levs a year. "They were looking for a company to continue the business," Jabra said. He is not aware of there having been any other candidate buyers.
Currently Schreiber Foods Bulgaria makes dairy products for Danone, as well as for the private labels of Lidl, Kaufland and Dairy Food Bulgaria. It exports about 20% of its output to Spain, Portugal, Greece and Romania. The company had a turnover of 51.3 million levs in 2021.
Jabra did not disclose the price of the deal, which will be carried out through a newly set up entity, JMJ Industries. The acquired company will be renamed to Dairy Day.
Joseph Jabra plans to expand the business both in Sofia and Karlovo and expects the total turnover to reach 120 million levs in 2023. "In Karlovo, we produce mainly cheese. The new acquisition will allow us to expand our portfolio by adding milk, yogurt, fruit yogurt, ayran and cream," he said.
In 2022 Schreiber Foods Bulgaria produced 26,000 tonnes of dairy products. Now Jabra plans to expand the capacity by 10,000 tonnes by investing 2 million euro in three automated production lines in 2023 and a further 2 million euro next year. The factory will start producing its own brands too.