June 26, 2018 / 6:11 PM / in 4 months

UPDATE 1-Danone's Morocco dairy firm loses 50 percent of milk market -CEO

(Adds details, background)

By Ahmed Eljechtimi

CASABLANCA, Morocco, June 26 (Reuters) - France’s Danone will never quit Morocco despite its local dairy firm Centrale Danone having lost more than 50 percent of its market share in fresh milk due to a consumer boycott, Danone’s chief executive said on Tuesday.

Unknown activists launched a consumer boycott campaign on April 20 against major suppliers of milk, bottled water and petrol in Morocco, protesting against high prices.

Centrale Danone was targeted along with Afriquia fuel stations and the Sidi Ali water brand.

“Centrale Danone will never leave Morocco,” Emmanuel Faber told reporters during a visit to the country’s commercial hub of Casablanca.

But it will take months to address the fallout from the boycott and regain consumers’ trust, he said.

Centrale Danone, almost 100 percent owned by the French firm, also decided not to pay a dividend, Faber said.

To regain the public’s trust the dairy firm was ready to sell milk at the cost of production without making a profit if a new deal could be reached with farmers.

He did not give any further details.

The boycott, launched on Facebook in April, has slashed the company’s sales, which warned this month it expects a loss of 150 million dirhams in the six months ending June 30, down from a profit of 56 million dirhams in the same period a year ago.

The other companies targeted by the boycott have declined to comment.

Online campaigners have accused the targeted firms of exploiting their market position.

The government has called for the boycott to end, voicing concern that it may discourage foreign investors and undermine the domestic dairy sector.

Protests over poverty and corruption this year and in 2017 in impoverished regions of Morocco have been described as the most intense since the 2011 unrest that prompted King Mohammed VI to devolve some of his powers to an elected parliament. (Reporting by Ahmed Eljechtimi, writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Jan Harvey and David Evans)

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