F&N has plans to expand its regional presence and brand portfolio further

F&N has plans to expand its regional presence and brand portfolio further

A change of CEO and the end of its 75-year partnership with The Coca-Cola Co, could signal a change of direction for Fraser & Neave (F&N) and the boost it needs to push further into the Asean region.

The Singapore-based soft drinks firm and Coca-Cola officially ended their partnership last week. The deal had seen F&N bottle and sell Coca-Cola's drinks in Malaysia, while Coca-Cola had done the same for F&N in Singapore.

Also last week, F&N's retiring CEO for food and beverages, Koh Poh Tiong, was replaced by Pascal de Petrini.

While some in the industry might see the two events as potentially disruptive to business, F&N has been keen to make clear its plans to expand its presence and brand portfolio in the Asean region.

Of course, F&N already has a relatively strong presence in the region. It is a leading player in the food and beverage arena in both Singapore and Malaysia, and jointly owns Asia Pacific Breweries with Heineken. Unlisted companies in Singapore, Thailand and China also belong to the firm.

For F&N however, there is more to be done. The construction of a soft drinks facility in Yangon, Myanmar, is expected to complete next year, for example.

Now that F&N has ended its partnership with Cola-Cola, it has regained control of all local sales and distribution operations for its beverages business. This, it says, will allow it "reap the growth opportunities available in the Singapore beverage sector". The company's ambition is to have a factory in each country "when there is sufficient volume".

The decision was made not to renew the contract two years ago, so F&N has had plenty of time to build up its headcount and distribution network in preparation for this. It will now look to aggressively market and extend its portfolio regionally, starting with the pending launch of 100Plus Edge - a non-carbonated version of 100Plus - and F&N Clearly Citrus.

Petrini will certainly have his work cut out with the new-look F&N and, while Koh had said he didn't anticipate a major change in strategy on his departure, the absence of the firm's ties with Coca-Cola appears to offer the company an alternative path for the future.