AUSTRALIA: Frucor set to float to raise funds for future acquisitions

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Up-start soft-drinks maker Frucor will list on the Australian and New Zealand stock exchanges next month in a move widely expected to raise funds for future acquisitions.Frucor will begin trading on June 13 with a capitalisation of around A$200m, although recent global stockmarket turmoil makes the exact valuation difficult to estimate.Frucor is tipped to strengthen its hold on the soft-drinks market in Australia - as it has already done in New Zealand.The company bought Lion Nathan's loss-making Pepsi NZ last year and is thought to be interested in buying Pepsi Australia - which Lion also has up for sale.Schweppes Australia is also thought to be a target.Frucor chief executive Mark Coswill will not comment on specifics but says all acquisitions are possible.Frucor has been a revelation in the Australasian soft-drinks market appearing from relative obscurity as part of the Apple and Pear Board in the 1990s.It had a couple of staple products including Fresh Up and Just Juice but its major break came with the launch three years ago of V, an energy drink.Marketed in a similar way to Red Bull, V has taken the New Zealand market by storm with a 60% market share and is doing a similar roaring trade in Australia, where it was launched last year.In 1998 Frucor fruit juices accounted for 77% the company's business and new energy beverages just 12%. But by 2001 fruit juices are expected to account for just 27% of sales and energy drinks 51%. Company sales have risen at an average of 40% a year for the past three years.Frucor is also planning a push into other Asian, European and American markets with V in the future. "The market for these drinks was established in Europe 12 years ago, and in New Zealand three years ago. Fads last one year, little more," says Coswill. "From 20 years experience in consumer foods groups in New Zealand, I am sure this will be a long-term prospect."David Robertson

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