* Coke previously bought stake in Honest Tea
* Coke has option to buy rest of company
NEW YORK Jan 19 Coca-Cola Co (KO.N) took a step toward buying tiny bottled tea and juice maker Honest Tea, as the Federal Trade Commission announced antitrust approval for the transaction.
Coke took a 40 percent stake in the Maryland-based bottled tea and juice company for $43 million in 2008, and allowed Honest Tea products to be distributed nationwide with Coke's, with the understanding that it could buy the rest this year.
That process is now underway, said two sources close to the deal who declined to discuss financing or timing of any deal. No deal has been announced, but the antitrust approval, announced on Tuesday, marks a legal hurdle that clears the way for a deal.
"The FTC's early termination of the HSR waiting period is certainly good news and we hope to share additional information at a later date," said Coke spokesman Scott Williamson. (Reporting by Martinne Geller in New York and Diane Bartz in Washington, D.C.; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)