PepsiCo to become Russia’s biggest beverage company

PEPSICO Inc is buying a majority stake in Wimm-Bill-Dann Foods for $3.8 billion (€2.79bn), making it the biggest Russian food and beverage company.

The move also gives PepsiCo access to the healthier drinks consumers are increasingly clamouring for, as Wimm-Bill-Dann produces dairy and juice products including Chudo, J7 and Lubimy Sad.

“This deal makes perfect sense for Pepsi,” John Sicher, editor and publisher of Beverage Digest said, explaining that the acquisition allows PepsiCo to diversify its portfolio and pick up some health-conscious products.

The transaction is in line with similar steps taken by rival Coca-Cola Co, which bought Russian juice producer Nidan for an undisclosed sum in September.

Coca-Cola has invested $2bn since the early 1990s into Russia and plans to invest another $1bn in the next three to five years.

Atlanta-based Coca-Cola and PepsiCo have been increasing their presence in Russia, China and other emerging countries in part to offset weakness at home and in developed markets, where people have been curbing spending because of the uncertain economy.

PepsiCo gets about 40% of its revenue from outside the US and Canada. The soft drink and snack maker, whose brands include Tropicana, Frito-Lay, Quaker and Pepsi-Cola, announced a $1bn investment programme for Russia last year.

PepsiCo said yesterday it plans to pay for its 66% stake in Wimm-Bill-Dann, with available cash and short-term debt financing. Each selling stockholder will receive $33 per American depositary receipt. PepsiCo said it will offer to buy the remaining stake in another bid following the initial offer’s completion.

PepsiCo chairman and chief executive Indra Nooyi said in a statement that the deal will help it provide customers with nutritious foods and drinks that are affordable and accessible.

PepsiCo, based in Purchase, NY, previously announced it was forming a new Global Nutrition Group to help it create new products and cut sodium, sugar and certain fats across its portfolio, including chips in its Frito-Lay division. Earlier this year, PepsiCo said it was setting out to triple its sales of healthier fare to $30bn by 2020.

The Wimm-Bill-Dann acquisition will boost PepsiCo’s annual global revenue from nutritious and functional foods to almost $13bn from approximately $10bn.

The acquisition, which broadens PepsiCo’s presence in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, is expected to modestly add to PepsiCo’s first year earnings.

Wimm-Bill-Dann, founded in 1992, had revenue of about $2.4bn for the year ended in June 2010.

It has 38 manufacturing plants in Russia, the Ukraine and Central Asia with more than 16,000 employees

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