Coca-Cola Buys Aujan Drink Stake to Expand in Middle East

Coca-Cola Co. (KO), the world’s largest soft-drink maker, agreed to acquire about half of the equity in the beverage business of Saudi Arabia-based Aujan Industries in what the companies described as a $980 million transaction.

Coca-Cola will purchase 50 percent of the Aujan entity that holds the rights to the Rani and Barbican brands and 49 percent of Aujan’s bottling and distribution unit, the companies said today in a statement. The deal, which excludes Aujan’s Iranian manufacturing and distribution business, is expected to close in the first half of 2012, the companies said.

“The Middle East is a high-growth region with some of the highest rates of non-alcoholic ready-to-drink per-capita consumption,” Ahmet C. Bozer, Coca-Cola’s group president for Eurasia and Africa, said in the statement. “This transaction creates a platform for further cooperation between Coca-Cola Co., Aujan and existing bottling partners across the region.”

The deal will give Atlanta-based Coca-Cola a stake in one of the Middle East’s leading soft-drink businesses and provide closely held Aujan with a platform to accelerate the international growth of brands including Rani and Barbican, the companies said. Royal Bank of Scotland Plc (RBS) advised Aujan on the transaction, the beverage company said in a separate statement.

Aujan, established in 1905 as a commodities trading firm, is one of the 100 biggest companies in Saudi Arabia, employing more than 2,500 people. Revenue will exceed $850 million this year, more than double the figure reached in 2007, Aujan said. The company also holds the license for Nichols Plc-owned Vimto in the Middle East via its bottling and distribution unit.

Antoine Tayyar, a spokesman for Coca-Cola in the Middle East, and Kent Landers, a spokesman for Coca-Cola in the U.S., didn’t immediately return calls seeking comment.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Roberts in Paris at aroberts36@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: David Risser at drisser@bloomberg.net

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