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UK: Innocent Drinks denies Coca-Cola Co buy-out rumour

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Innocent Drinks has said that speculation that it is looking to sell the rest of the company to The Coca-Cola Co are "100% false".

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Innocent, which controls more than two thirds of the UK smoothie market, agreed to sell a stake of between 15% and 20% in its business to Coca-Cola in 2009 for GBP30m (US$49m). A year later, Coca-Cola upped its stake in the smoothie maker to 58%.

A report by Marketing Magazine today (24 August) has cited unnamed industry sources as claiming that Innocent founder Richard Reed and his co-founders have "a provisional business plan to exit the business all together".

A spokesperson for Innocent, however, strongly denied the existence of a plan. She told just-drinks today: "The rumours are 100% false. There are absolutely no plans to sell to Coke next year. There have always been rumours like this and they're not true. Last year we heard rumours that said PepsiCo we're going to buy us."

Analysts have previously suggested that Coca-Cola Co will ultimately want to buy Innocent outright. Datamonitor consumer analyst, Michael Hughes, told just-drinks today: "Although any eventual complete takeover will not have a significant impact on overall sales, giving full control to a multinational could damage this brand image somewhat among some core buyers.

"Innocent is a brand that gained a positive image through being an independent company that was positioned around healthy living and ethical business practice," Hughes said. However, he added: "Overall, this will have very little influence on the majority of buyers of Innocent products."

A spokesperson for Coca-Cola said: "We are happy with our partnership with Innocent. However, we do not comment on market rumours."


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