Israeli-led consortium gets nod to buy Clover

  • Clover-logo
The Competition Tribunal has given the go-ahead for a bid by an Israeli-led consortium to buy South Africa’s biggest dairy company, Clover.
by NICOLA MILTZ | Sep 26, 2019

“It is a done deal. Now is the time to pop the champagne,” a respected industry insider said on Wednesday.

The insider, who asked to remain anonymous, told the SA Jewish Report on Wednesday this was good news for South Africa.

The tribunal approved dairy firm Clover Industries’ takeover by Milco SA, a consortium headed by Israeli beverage firm Central Bottling Company (CBC) based in Tel Aviv, for $319.5 million (R4.8 billion).

The multi-billion rand takeover is subject to a range of conditions, the tribunal said. These include employment, local procurement, and information sharing.

“It’s the first inward investment since Cyril Ramaphosa became president, and it will make a big difference to South Africa,” said the insider. “The companies involved will add tremendous value from the point of view of employment, technology, and expertise. We can only benefit from this.”

CBC is the biggest shareholder in Milco, which made the offer to buy out Clover at R25 a share in February 2019. CBC is Israel’s leading maker and distributor of popular beverages including Coca-Cola, Fuze Tea, Tuborg, and Carlsberg beers. It views the Clover deal as a way of expanding its operations in Africa.

Other investors included Johannesburg Stock Exchange-listed Brimstone Investment Corporation, which in April pulled out following a protest by pro-Palestinian activists.

The company bowed out of the deal following huge pressure from Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) and other anti-Israel lobby groups who accused CBC of being complicit in human-rights abuses and violating international law.

The alleged threats and intimidation by these groups took their toll on Mustaq Brey, Brimstone’s chief executive, and his partner, Fred Robertson, the executive chairman and co-founder of the South African company.

Right from the start, the deal elicited widespread criticism from BDS, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), trade union Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU), and other anti-Israel activists who have been intent on sabotaging it.

However, the insider said CBC was coming here to “add value and something world-class”.

“This is a South African story. It’s nice when international companies see South Africa as an opportunity, and they have certainly stayed the distance.”

Earlier this year the Competition Commission approved, with conditions, the sale of the foods and beverages group to the consortium. The commission recommended that the tribunal approve the transaction.

The commission is a statutory body constituted in terms of the Competition Act. While it is the investigative and enforcement agency, the tribunal is the organisation which rubber stamps decisions and adjudicates on matters referred to it by the commission. The Competition Appeal Court considers appeals against the decisions of the tribunal.

One of the purposes of the commission is to investigate, control, and evaluate restrictive business practices, the abuse of dominant positions, and mergers in order to achieve equity and efficiency in the South African economy. It does this to promote employment and advance the social and economic welfare of South Africans, among many other things.


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