Coca-Cola moving ahead with takeover of Nigeria’s Chi juice

Coca-Cola is moving ahead with plans to take over Nigeria’s leading juice company Chi Ltd and aims to complete the deal early next year.

The acquisition for an undisclosed price is one of several steps the U.S. company is taking in a global strategy to diversify from its core business of sugary sodas.

Last month it agreed to buy Costa coffee for $5.1 billion, and sources familiar with the matter say it is also bidding for GlaxoSmithKline’s Indian Horlicks nutrition business.

“We are still on track to complete the acquisition (of Chi Ltd) by the end of the first quarter of 2019,” Peter Njonjo, president of Coca-Cola’s west Africa business, said on Wednesday.

Coca-Cola bought a 40 percent stake in the Nigerian juice and snack producer in January 2016, and said at the time it aimed to increase ownership within three years.

Juice sales form a central plank of the U.S. company’s attempt to offer drinks at a range of price points in Nigeria to improve affordability in a country where Njonjo sees high inflation and modest economic growth in the coming year.

Focusing on smaller bottles and cans is another way the company is trying to woo cash-strapped consumers in Nigeria, which emerged from its first recession in 25 years in 2017 but continues to suffer from sluggish growth and high inflation.

“Affordability will start becoming a bigger issue in this market than it was in the past. As a company, that is what we need to factor in as we are thinking about the future of our business in Nigeria,” Njonjo said in an interview.

He pointed to the introduction of a 30 centilitre bottle of Coke Zero for 60 naira ($0.20), compared with the standard 50 centilitre bottle for 80 naira, as just one example.

Njonjo said the company’s drive to diversify its product range could also give it more flexibility in a market where unemployment is high and the United Nations estimates most of the population of 190 million lives on less than $2 a day.

“We realise that in certain pack formats you can only go down so low,” he said in an interview at his office in the commercial capital Lagos. “But once you start looking at pouches and still products, like juice and drinking yoghurts, that allows you to start accessing much lower price points.”

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