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Coke presses on after rejected juice deal

COCA-COLA Co yesterday said it was focusing on ways to expand its own juice business rather than through acquisitions after its failed bid to buy the China Huiyuan Juice Group.

"We have a wonderful brand of our own," said Doug Jackson, president of Coca-Cola China, referring to the Minute Maid juice business. "We don't have any plans for acquisition in the juice business. We are going to develop our own business organically, and we have big plans to develop that business throughout China."

China in March rejected Coke's bid for Huiyuan, the nation's top pure juice maker over competition concerns.

Coca-Cola and rival PepsiCo Inc, which together control 86 percent of China's soda market, have spent the decade buying juice and flavored-water brands to compete.

Juice accounts for somewhere between 10 and 20 percent of Coke's business, Jackson told a media briefing in Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, where Coke opened a new bottling plant yesterday.

Coke is pushing forward with a three-year plan to invest US$2 billion in China. On Tuesday, it opened a bottling plant in Nanchang, Jiangxi Province.

The company said the two plants, costing 210 million yuan (US$30.7 million), represented its commitment to a government call for development in the west region. The two plants are invested by COFCO Coca-Cola Beverages Ltd, a 65-35 venture between COFCO Ltd, China's top agricultural trading and processing company, and Coca-Cola.

The Xinjiang plant, Coke's 38th bottling plant in China and the 10th by COFCO Coca-Cola, has an annual capacity of 200,000 tons. In Xinjiang, the average per head consumption of Coke products was 88 ounces last year, against the nation's average of 224 ounces, the company said.

Coke is also building a plant in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. China is now its third market after the United States and Mexico.

Meanwhile, Jackson dismissed speculation that Coca-Cola had approached Chinese authorities for an initial public offering of A shares.


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