December 14/Dubai/Reuters -- Coca-Cola Co. acquired about half of the equity in the beverage business of Saudi Arabia-based Aujan Industries for $980 million, to expand its presence in non-alcoholic beverages in the Middle East.

Under the agreement, Coca-Cola will acquire a 50% stake in the entity that holds the rights to Aujan's brands and a 49% stake in its bottling and distribution company.

Ahmet Bozer, president of Coca-Cola in Eurasia and Africa, said in a statement that the region was poised for growth.

"The Middle East is a high-growth region with some of the highest rates of non alcoholic ready-to-drink per capita consumption," Bozer said in a statement.

Aujan chairman Adel Aujan told Arabiya television in an interview that he hoped to double revenue in five years from the current 3 billion riyals ($800 million) per year.

"Sixty-five percent of our sales are outside the kingdom (of Saudi Arabia), and we compete with international companies. So as time goes by, I see that these giant international companies -- we don't have their capabilities," Aujan said in the televised interview. "So I saw a necessity to partner with the people who can give us strength, and Coca-Cola are the most suitable people for that."

The agreement excludes Arjan's Iranian manufacturing and distribution business, the companies said, and the transaction is expected to close in the first half of 2012.

 From the December 14, 2011, Prepared Foods' Daily News.