The leading juice and dairy manufacturer has said it will invest $7.3 million (€5.9m) in the Tashkent Sut dairy plant between 2004-2008, a fact that was confirmed by the group's chairman David Yakobashvili at a press conference in Moscow yesterday.
Russian national newspaper reports said that WBD is planning to invest an initial $1.5 million to pay off the Tashkent dairy's existing debts and to establish a sales and distribution sector for its products in the country. The company said it is aiming to produce 150 tons of milk a day at the plant by the end of the year.
The initial plan is to build up sales within the Tashkent region, then to extend them on a national basis, with the aim of starting exports to neighbouring Tajikastan by 2006.
Although WBD has not confirmed how much it is paying for it 77 per cent share in the debt-ridden dairy producer, analysts believe that it will be a nominal fee, in view of the fact that it is also assuming all of Tashkent Sud's debts.
The dairy is currently 60 per cent owned by the plant's management, with other smaller shares being bought out from the state government and other investors. The deal is expected to be sealed at the end of next week, after which the state will continue to own a small stake and a further 20 per cent will be held by private investors.
Established in 1992, WBD currently has 24 manufacturing facilities in Russia and the CIS. Over the past year the company has made concerted efforts to expand outside its core Russian market and Uzbekistan has been singled out as a target market.
Significant investments have been made in the CIS in recent years, the most recent being a $9 million investment in an existing yoghurt production facility in the Ukraine.