Coke Pays $1 Billion for Share of Saudi Drinks Firm Aujan

The deal excludes Aujan's manufacturing and distribution in Iran.

Coca-Cola said Wednesday it would pay $980 million for a stake in Saudi soft drinks producer Aujan Industries, expanding its footprint the fast-growing Gulf non-alcoholic beverage sector.

Coke will take a 50% share of Aujan, which produces juices under the Rani brand and Barbican, one of the leading brands in the non-alcoholic beer market.

It is also licensed to distribute the British cordial Vimto.

"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," said Aujan chairman Sheikh Adel Aujan.

Coke said the investment is part of some $5 billion it plans to plow into 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 Bozer, who lead's Coke's division in the region.

"In addition to their great brands, we are investing in Aujan because it is a well-run, successful business."

The deal notably excludes Aujan's manufacturing and distribution in Iran, which increasingly faces U.S. and European sanctions for what is believed to be a push to develop nuclear weapons.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2011

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