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Coca-Cola agrees to Huiyuan's takeover
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The Coca-Cola Company has agreed to offer US$2.4 billion for a controlling stake in China Huiyuan Juice Group Ltd as the world's largest beverage maker continues to cement its presence in the fast expanding Chinese market.

The deal, pending government approval, is expected to be Coca-Cola's first acquisition in China and the largest in China's food and beverage industry.

Coca-Cola's is offering HK$12.20 (US$1.56) a share, nearly triple Huiyuan's last closing price of HK$4.14, according to a joint statement by the firms to Hong Kong stock exchange yesterday.

Huiyuan jumped 164.25 percent to HK$10.94 yesterday.

Three shareholders of Huiyuan, China's major juice-maker, have agreed to accept the offer, which represents approximately 66 percent of total shares, Coca-Cola said, adding it will also buy Huiyuan's outstanding convertible bonds and options.

"Huiyuan is a long-established and successful juice brand in China and is highly complementary to the Coca-Cola China business, according to Muhtar Kent, president and chief executive officer of Coca-Cola.

He said the acquisition will provide a unique opportunity to strengthen its business in China, especially since the juice segment is a dynamic and fast-growing business in China.

Coca-Cola's market share in China is widely seen to get a boost on completion of the deal as it reflected the company's strategy to diversify. Growing healthy awareness among the population in China has fueled market demand for pure juices, in addition to sparkling beverage and diluted-juices.

"The deal may allow Coca-Cola to enhance its control on raw materials in China, which is crucial for developing its own products," said Wang Peng, an analyst at Shenyin Wanguo Securities Co Ltd.

"Huiyuan will also benefit from the technology and management expertise brought by Coca-Cola that could bolster nationwide sales."

Huiyuan is China's leading maker of pure fruit juices with about 43 percent of the market, according to industrial figures. It owns 31 production facilities nationwide.

Sales in China's juice market grew at an average 10 percent year on year, according to sources.

In the last few years, Coca-Cola also diversified into a number of still beverages including Minute Maid Pulpy and Original Leaf Tea.

(Shanghai Daily September 4, 2008)

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