Coca-Cola Co. on Sept. 3 announced its intention to purchase Huiyuan Juice Group Ltd., a Hong Kong-listed company that owns the Huiyuan juice business throughout China, for $2.4 billion.

Coke is offering Huiyuan HK$12.20, about $1.56, per share.  Three of Huiyan’s largest shareholders have reached a deal with Coke to accept the offer.  Those guarantees represent about two-thirds of Huiyuan shares. 

The deal is still subject to regulatory approval, but it would be Coke’s largest acquisition of an overseas company ever.

The move is Coke’s latest bid to bolster its already strong presence in the Chinese beverage market.

Coke is the largest non-alcoholic beverage company in the world, and China is its fourth-largest customer. 

The Atlanta-based beverage company was a premier sponsor of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing and last year opened a research center for traditional Chinese medicine at the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences in the capital city.

Coca-Cola also sponsored the 2008 Paralympic Games that followed the Olympics and will be a global sponsor (the highest level) of the World Expo 2010 in Shanghai, an event expected to draw millions of people to the financial capital of China. 

Muhtar Kent, Coke’s president and CEO, said the acquisition will help the company’s China operation to accelerate growth, particularly in the juice segment.

In China, juice is performing better than the sparkling beverage category, which includes Coke’s best-known brands like Coca-Cola, Sprite and Fanta. 

“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,” he said.

Coke officials said the company intends to pay cash for the acquisition.

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...