Atlanta-based US soft drinks giant Coca-Cola Co. yesterday announced that it was acquiring Beijing-based Chinese juice maker Huiyuan Juice for $ 2.4 billion, making it its biggest acquisition in China.
This is also the largest acquisition by a foreign corporation in China.
The deal would value the Chinese juice maker at about three times its market value. Coca-Cola will offer $1.6 per share in Hong Kong-listed Huiyuan, about three times the firm's closing price on Friday.
There are two shareholders besides Huiyuan's parent, China Huiyuan Juice Holdings Co., which owns a 38.5-per cent stake in the company, French food giant Group Danone has a 21-per cent stake, and 6.8 per cent owned is owned by US private equity firm Warburg Pincus & Co. The three shareholders, who collectively own 66 per cent in the company, have accepted the offer.
Group Danone said it had entered into an agreement to tender all its shares China Huiyuan Juice Group Limited to the pre-conditional takeover bid to be launched by the Coca-Cola Company through its wholly-owned subsidiary, Atlantic Industries.
The offers is subject to the usual preconditions relating to Chinese regulatory approvals.
Coca-Cola said it intends to buy all outstanding shares, convertible bonds and options of Huiyuan and privatising the company thereafter.
"Huiyuan is a long-established and successful juice brand in China and is highly complementary to the Coca-Cola China business," said Muhtar Kent, president and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company in a statement.
"This acquisition will deliver value to our shareholders and provide a unique opportunity to strengthen our business in China, especially since the juice segment is so dynamic and fast growing in China. It is also further evidence of our deep commitment to China and to providing Chinese consumers with the beverage choices that meet their needs," Kent aded.
China's rapid economic growth has created a huge middle class with an increasing fondness for western brands like McDonald's, KFC, Starbuck's, Coca-Cola and Pepsi.
Coca-Cola has been operating in China since 1979 already sells over a billion bottles of Coke a year besides other products, like Sprite and its Minute Maid orange juice in China.
With China's food and beverage markets growing quickly, Coke is trying to stamp its authority in the beverage industry in China with the acquisition of Huiyuan.
Huiyuan, a dominant player in China's beverage market with about 46 per cent market share was founded in 1992 and exports beverage products to 30 countries, including the United States and Japan.
The company's beverage range includes orange, apple and pear juice and has doubled its sales in the past few years to $380 million last year. Huiyuan went public in Hong Kong in 2007.
Coca Cola is the No.1 provider of sparkling beverages, juices and juice drinks and ready-to-drink teas and coffees. Through the world's largest beverage distribution system, consumers in more than 200 countries enjoy the company's beverages at a rate of 1.5 billion servings a day.
Coke has been steadily acquiring makers of juice, water, and other noncarbonated drinks around the world in recent years to broaden its portfolio and beat back competitors in segments.
Coca-Cola was advised on the deal by Royal Bank of Scotland and Huiyuan was advised by Goldman Sachs.
The company's Hong Kong shares soared on news of a potential takeover by Coco Cola, nearly tripling to over 11 Hong Kong dollars, or $1.41, per share, up from about 4 dollars before the bid was announced.