Coca-Cola eyes Serbian juice maker

BELGRADE – Coca-Cola Co and its Greek firm Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Co (CCHBC) are looking to buy top Serbian fruit-juice maker Fresh & Co, in a bid to expand in Serbia, local media said yesterday. Coca-Cola has submitted its offer to Fresh & Co, but the price has yet to be negotiated, the Belgrade tabloid Kurir reported. This would be the second Coca-Cola transaction in Serbia this year. The company bought local water bottler Vlasinka for 21.5 million euros in February. «Coca-Cola is interested in Serbia’s fruit juice market and has been exploring all opportunities in this area,» Kurir quoted Coca-Cola’s spokeswoman in Belgrade, Sandra Parezanovic, as saying. Fresh & Co, known for its Next brand of fruit juices exported worldwide, declined comment but said it planned a transaction-related press release on Monday after its owner returns from holiday. The company, based in Subotica, Serbia’s northernmost city bordering Hungary, received a 12.5 million euro equity investment from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in 2003 to expand operations and introduce «PET-aseptic» packaging. Fresh & Co later borrowed from Serbian banks to kick-start the packaging line and avoid the collapse of its EBRD deal.