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Tue 28 Feb 2012 10:35 AM

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Saudi's Almarai mulls stake rise in Pepsi JV

Gulf's biggest dairy firm looking at increasing ownership of IDJ venture with PepsiCo

Saudi's Almarai mulls stake rise in Pepsi JV
Almarai currently holds 48 percent in International Dairy & Juice Ltd

Saudi Arabia's Almarai is in talks with PepsiCo Inc to increase its stake in a joint venture formed with the US soft drink giant in 2009, the Gulf dairy firm said on Tuesday.

Almarai, the Gulf's biggest dairy firm by market value, currently holds 48-percent in International Dairy & Juice Ltd (IDJ), with PepsiCo owning the remaining 52-percent stake.

The IDJ joint venture was formed to target growth opportunities in the dairy and juice sector in Southeast Asia, Africa and the Middle East, excluding the Gulf region.

"Almarai is looking at possibly slightly increasing their ownership of IDJ," the company said in a bourse statement.

"It is anticipated that an announcement could be made during the course of March 2012, although discussions are still ongoing."

Almarai, currently roadshowing for a riyal-denominated Islamic bond, has been keen to expand its footprint outside its core presence in the Gulf. In December, the company acquired Fondomonte S.A which owns and operates farms in Argentina, to secure feed for its dairy herd and poultry businesses.

It plans to invest $1.1bn in the poultry sector, it said in June.

Interest in Saudi Arabia's consumer sector is growing among international investors as the country's population rises beyond 27m, most of which are under the age of 30.

Coca-Cola Co invested $980m in Saudi Arabia-based beverage firm Aujan Industries in December. The transaction is expected to close in the first half of this year.

Meanwhile, U.S. private equity firm Carlyle Group acquired a 42-percent stake in Alamar Foods, the master franchise operator for Domino's Pizza and Wendy's restaurants in the Middle East and North Africa.

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