UPDATE 1-S.Korea Lotte buys Belgium's Guylian for $164 mln

Sun Jun 22, 2008 9:18pm EDT

(Adds details from a joint statement, share price)

SEOUL, June 23 (Reuters) - South Korea's Lotte Confectionery Co Ltd will acquire Belgian chocolate maker Guylian NV for 105 million euros ($164 million), marking its debut in the European premium chocolate market, Lotte said on Monday.

Lotte (004990.KS), South Korea's biggest snack company, signed a contract on Saturday under which it will purchase a 100 percent stake in the Belgium-based company, which competes with Italy's Ferrero Rocher and Switzerland's Lindt.

"With the acquisition of Guylian, Lotte is aiming to make a successful entry into the premium gift chocolate market," Lotte said in a statement.

Lotte will jointly set up an investment company with Japan's Lotte Co Ltd in the Netherlands to buy Guylian from owner Dominique Foubert and two other entities, according to Lotte's filing to the Korea Exchange.

Details on the Netherlands-based company's ownership structure have yet to be determined.

Guylian has an annual production capacity worth about 300 billion won ($291.1 million), and sales networks in nine markets ranging from Europe to the United States. Most of its annual sales of 130 billion won are in Europe.

As part of its global expansion strategy, Lotte is also seeking to launch a holding company in China and build a plant in Russia, and expects overseas businesses to eventually represent about a fifth of its annual sales.

Last year it created a $80 million venture with Hershey Co (HSY.N) to jointly operate a chocolate factory near Shanghai.

Shares in Lotte Confectionery added 0.7 percent to 120,900 won by 0100 GMT, outperforming the benchmark KOSPI .KS11 index's 1.9 percent fall. ($1=.6399 Euro) ($1=1030.5 Won)

(Reporting by Kim Yeon-hee and Park Ju-min; Editing by Jonathan Hopfner)

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