Coca-Cola expanding in Middle East

by Eric Schroeder
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ATLANTA — The Coca-Cola Co. has reached an agreement to acquire approximately half of the equity in Aujan Industries, one of the largest independent beverage companies in the Middle East, for about $980 million. Under the terms of the agreement, Coca-Cola will acquire 50% of the Aujan entity that holds the rights to Aujan-owned brands, and 49% of Aujan’s bottling and distribution company. The licensed brand Vimto will remain with the Aujan-managed bottling and distribution company.

The transaction — the largest investment by a multinational firm in the Middle East’s consumer goods segment — will provide Saudi Arabia-based Aujan Industries a platform to accelerate the international growth of the Aujan brands, including Rani and Barbican, while enhancing the regional outlook for licensed brand Vimto. Aujan holds a top-three position in still beverages in every country in which it operates and is one of the top 100 companies in Saudi Arabia with total annual revenues exceeding $850 million.

For Coca-Cola, the transaction represents an opportunity to acquire a significant stake in one of the leading still beverage businesses in the Middle East.

“As one of the region’s leading beverage companies, this partnership will allow us to unlock new and substantial opportunities,” said Sheikh Adel Aujan, chairman of Aujan Industries. “Drawing upon Aujan’s deep regional insights and the international capabilities of The Coca-Cola Co., Aujan will continue to leverage the strength of its leadership team and is now positioned for even greater success in the region and internationally.

“Today’s announcement marks the fruition of extensive dialogue between Aujan and The Coca-Cola Co. which has resulted in a soundly based framework for the commercial development of the business. Now supported by our shared heritage of more than 200 years, we are beginning an exciting new chapter in Aujan’s history.”

The move comes a few months after Coca-Cola announced it would invest $5 billion in the Middle East and North Africa region over the next 10 years.

“The Middle East is a high-growth region with some of the highest rates of non-alcoholic ready-to-drink per capita consumption,” said Ahmet C. Bozer, president of Coca-Cola Eurasia and Africa Group. “Today’s announcement is a demonstration of our commitment to consumers here that we are investing for the long term. In addition to their great brands, we are investing in Aujan because it is a well-run, successful business. This transaction creates a platform for further cooperation between The Coca-Cola Co., Aujan and existing bottling partners across the region.”

The agreement excludes Aujan’s Iranian manufacturing and distribution business. Closing of the transaction is subject to certain conditions.

Both companies expect the transaction to close in the first half of 2012.

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