September 21, 2018 / 1:33 PM / in a month

Moroccan dairy and water duo feel the impact of boycott campaign

RABAT, Sept 21 (Reuters) - Results from Moroccan dairy business Centrale Danone and bottled water company Les Eaux Minerales d’Oulmes this week demonstrated the impact of a months-long consumer boycott in the North African country.

The two companies reported a heavy hit to first-half earnings, citing the boycott launched by consumers on Facebook on April 20 to protest against prices set by the dairy and water businesses as well as Afriquia fuel stations, owned by agriculture minister Aziz Akhanouch’s Akwa group.

Centrale Danone, a subsidiary of French dairy group Danone , swung to first-half loss of 115 million dirhams ($12.2 million), against a 56 million dirham profit in the same period last year.

The boycott has forced the dairy company to scale back the amount of milk it collects from local farmers and to lay off 886 workers on temporary contracts. In a June profit warning the company said that first-half losses could be as high as 150 million dirhams.

At Les Eaux Minerales d’Oulmes, first-half net profit attributable to shareholders plunged by 87.9 percent to 9.74 million dirhams, it said on Thursday.

The company attributed the decline to the boycott, which has targeted its main bottled water brand, Sidi Ali.

In a statement in May the company had said its prices were fair and called on the government to lower taxes.

First-half results were not available for Afriquia fuel stations. As an unlisted company, it is not obliged to publish the results.

The Moroccan government, meanwhile, has voiced fears that the boycott could act as a deterrant to foreign investors.

In the 12 months to August, foreign direct investments plummeted by 18.6 percent year on year to 14.6 billion dirhams, official data shows.

The boycott has triggered calls for setting price caps for fuel, boosting the purchasing power of Moroccans and reactivating the country’s competition regulator.

In recent weeks, calls on social media backing the boycott have abated somewhat.

Reporting by Ahmed Eljechtimi Editing by Ulf Laessing and David Goodman

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