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Tuesday, May 4, 1999 Published at 16:25 GMT 17:25 UK

Business: The Company File

Coca-Cola's Orangina bid

The famous French drink may be guzzled up

Coca-Cola has launched a fresh attempt to buy the fizzy French fruit drink Orangina from Pernod Ricard.

The revised terms of the sale of Orangina will be submitted to the French competition authorities for approval.

The global giant was frustrated by the French authorities last month in its previous efforts to buy the brand from Pernod Ricard.

Problems arose because Orangina is the main distributor in France of products made by Coke's main rival, Pepsico.

Despite Coca-Cola and Pernod Ricard agreeing on a sale for $825m in December 1997, it was was blocked on competition grounds.

Distribution snag

It was felt that there would not be sufficient freedom of choice in the supply of soft drinks to bars, restaurants and cinemas.

The subsequent legal battle ended last month when the French Council of State, the country's highest level of administrative justice, upheld the ban.

The revised offer is for Coca-Cola to pay a lower amount, 469m ($759m), but agree to an independent partner taking over all sales of Orangina to commercial outlets for 10 years.

This will give Coca-Cola's main rival Pepsico time to set up an alternative distribution network.

"We have taken into account all the preoccupations of the French authorities and we sincerely believe that our new agreement responds to their needs," Pernod Ricard said.

The proposed purchase of Orangina is part of Coca-Cola's strategy to pick up well known brands.

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