French dairy major Bel Group is to sell the controlling stake in Morocco’s Safilait it has held since 2015.

It is being acquired by Polish dairy player Polmlek for an undisclosed sum.

Bel, behind cheese brands including Boursin, the Laughing Cow and Babybel, said the rationale behind the disposal is so its local operation, Fromageries Bel Maroc, can “focus on their historical cheese brands’ growth and local market-share development”.

Safilait, established in 2006, has grown into Morocco’s third-largest dairy business. It specialises in the processing, packaging and sale of fresh milk, UHT milk and fresh dairy products through its Jibal brand.

It employs nearly 1,500 people and has a production facility in the Fkih Ben Saleh region.

Bel bought a 69.82% majority stake in the business from private-equity firms Fipar Holding and Sopar seven years ago. The remaining 30.18% interest stayed under the ownership of Safilait’s founding company, Yasfi.

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In a statement issued today (14 July), Bel said: “This represents an opportunity for Safilait to tie its future to Polmlek, the major Polish dairy player, which aims to invest in the development and growth of their core business as part of their strategy to expand internationally.”

The Tarmast farm, which supplies Safilait, is also part of the deal.

Bel said Morocco remains a key market for the company, where it has “increased its investments, including in its state-of-the-art Tangier factory, and where it will continue to invest”.

Bel Group CEO Cécile Béliot said: “We are committed to Morocco since the 1970s and will continue to invest, to consolidate the position of our historical brands in the country. Since 2015, Safilait, thanks to the strong expertise and mobilisation of the teams, has consolidated its position as a major dairy player in Morocco, that Polmlek aims to strengthen.”

Polmlek said: “The transaction will enable Polmlek International to implement a long-term plan of foreign expansion by establishing a footprint in the Moroccan market, with a well-established household brand, a solid asset base, and an experienced management team.”

Bel employs around 2,500 people in Morocco.

Polmlek, founded in 1994, currently operates 13 dairy plants in Poland. It employs 4,000 people and is forecasting sales in 2022 of EUR2bn (US$2bn).