Greek Coke bottler to set up coffee joint venture

ATHENS Mon Nov 12, 2007 5:10am EST

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ATHENS Nov 12 (Reuters) - Greek Coke bottler Coca-Cola HBC (CCHBC) HLB.AT said on Monday it will form a joint venture to sell ready-to-drink coffee products, strengthening its presence in that market, CCHBC said on Monday. CCHBC, the world's second-largest bottler of Coke products, said it signed a letter of intent with Coca-Cola Co. (KO.N) and Italian roaster illycafe to set up a three-way joint venture which will manufacture and sell coffee in 28 countries. "Ready to drink coffee is a small but high-growth high-value category in most of our markets," said CCHBC Managing Director Doros Constantinou in a statement. "This joint venture will further strengthen our premium product offering and will allow us to maximise its potential."

Coca-Cola Co. and illycaffe agreed to form a global joint venture last month. Negotiations on the joint-venture business model are expected to conclude early next year and are subject to regulatory approval, CCHBC said.

CCHBC is already offering ready-to-drink coffee under the Nescafe brand but it might look to discontinue the business after Nestle (NESN.VX) and Coca-Cola Co. agreed to stop making coffee earlier in the year.

(Reporting by Stelios Bouras, editing by Sue Thomas)

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