Thursday, July 05, 2007

Business makes for a strange brew

Snapple, which has advertised its drinks as "made from the best stuff on Earth," may be bought by Coca-Cola, which didn't remove dangerous chemicals from its Fanta and Vault drinks until sued by a consumer group.

Industry reports say Coca-Cola may form an alliance with private equity bidders circling Cadbury's $15 billion U.S.-based soft drinks business by bidding for Snapple, the fruit and iced-tea drink brand.

Speaking at a conference in Geneva, Switzerland earlier this week, Coca-Cola chairman and CEO E. Neville Isdell said, “That is a valuation we undertake, whether (Snapple) is of interest to us or whether we can do it on our own.”

The Wall Street Journal reported that Coke already has approached private equity groups involved in bidding for Cadbury’s drinks business about taking on its Snapple and Mott’s brands under a pre-sale agreement. A Cadbury’s spokesperson would say only that the group was focused on selling its drinks business, which also includes 7UP and Dr Pepper, as a “total entity.”

Cadbury’s several months ago announced plans to separate its confectionery and soft drinks business under pressure from shareholder Nelson Peltz who bought Snapple for $300 million in 1997 before selling the brand as part of a $1.45 billion package to Cadbury’s three years later.

Coke, seeking to expand its range of ready-to-drink and non-carbonated products, the fastest growing sector in the drinks industry, already has purchased Fuze Beverage and Energy Brands Inc. The $4.1 billion price for Energy Brands, which makes vitamin-enhanced water, was the largest deal in Coke’s history.

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