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Coca-Cola sees India as strong growth market

Our Bureau

NEW DELHI, Oct. 16

ARE things finally falling in place for Coca-Cola India?

Despite accumulating losses of Rs 2,086 crore in its bottling subsidiary, Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages, in the last two years, the cola giant has signalled its intention to stay the long haul in India.

Coke, which has been in the country now for close to a decade after its re-entry, has mentioned India as a strong growth market, along with China and Philippines.

This endorsement of the growth prospects in India is reflected in the Coca-Cola Company's third quarter results announced today, which reported a 5 per cent worldwide unit case volume increase in its third quarter, reflecting a 9 per cent volume growth in North America and 4 per cent internationally in the quarter.

Coca-Cola India's biggest growth has come from Kinley, its packaged water brand, which claims to have now overtaken Bisleri in the Rs 1,000-crore packaged water market. Kinley claims a current market share of 35.1 per cent, against Bisleri's 34.4 per cent. That Bisleri's owner, Mr Ramesh Chauhan, does not agree with the market share figures, is another story.

While Coca-Cola India has not declared India-specific results for Q3 yet, in its Q2 results for the quarter ended June 2002, Coca-Cola India had claimed a 26 per cent growth in carbonated soft drink (CSD) volumes against the same period the previous year. The company had claimed a 58 per cent market share of the CSD market for the quarter ended June 2002.

For Coke, the Asian region reflected a unit case growth of 9 per cent for the quarter, and 11 per cent for the first nine months. In a press release issued by the company internationally, India, along with China and the Philippines, have been named as strong growth markets.

In a statement issued today, Mr Doug Draft, Chairman and CEO, The Coca-Cola Company, said, "We continued to build on our progress in the first half of the year to generate year-to-date carbonated soft drinks growth of two per cent and non-carbonated beverages growth of 27 per cent. While growth in North America was very strong, our worldwide results were below our internal projections due to extremely poor weather conditions in parts of Europe and Asia.''

According to Mr Doug's statement, unit case volumes benefitted from the recent strategic acquisitions and license agreements on brands such as Evian, Danone waters, Seagram's Mixers and Risco.

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