18 Aug 2009 14:49

Wimm-Bill-Dann invests $0.5 mln in modernization of Georgian plant

MOSCOW. Aug 18 (Interfax) - Wimm-Bill-Dann Foods , Russia's biggest dairy producer, has invested about $500,000 in the reconstruction of a dairy plant in Georgia and intends to use the plant to actively expand on the dairy markets of Armenia and Azerbaijan, WBD board member Marina Kagan told Interfax.

The dairy plant will have production capacity of about 80 tonnes of products per day following reconstruction. WBD acquired the plant in late 2006, but it has remained idle since then after previously being one of Georgia's largest.

"Starting from mid-September, the plant will produce the entire assortment of Wimm-Bill-Dann dairy products in addition to local products," she said.

WBD plans to ship dairy products from the Georgian plant to Armenia and Azerbaijan as well, she said. "In the past, we only had a trade representative office here," she said.

The company believes the Caucasus markets have serious potential. Milk consumption in these countries is not particularly high and the packaged milk market is not very developed, she said. "We expect to fight seriously for the local market and have a considerable share of it in just a few years," she said.

Wimm-Bill-Dann Foods, one of the leading producers of dairy and juice products in Russia, was formed in 1992 and includes 36 plants in Russia and the CIS, as well as affiliates in 26 cities. France's Danone owns an 18.36% stake in the company. Roughly 40% of WBD shares are traded on the NYSE as ADR.

WBD increased US GAAP net profit 27.3% to $101.7 million in 2008.