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NZ/AUS: Investor's soft drink concerns dampen Frucor share issue

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Concern over the prospects for smaller soft-drinks makers and wobbles in global stockmarkets has forced Australian-New Zealand based Frucor to accept a drastically reduced price for its first share issue.Frucor, which makes the V energy drink as well as fruit juice brands like Fresh-up and Just Juice, had been looking for bids of between NZ$1.95 and $2.25 a share but the big financial institutions have offered only $1.50.This values the 50.1% stake, which will start trading on Australia and New Zealand exchanges on Tuesday, at NZ$93.7m compared with $121m at $1.95 a share.Major investors claim they were unwilling to offer higher than $1.50 because of growth concerns. Analysts believe that Frucor may be overstating growth potential outside its core Australasian markets, particularly in the UK where it has just started selling V. Market watchers believe smaller soft-drink makers lack the marketing clout to take on the giant manufacturers - who are expected to invest heavily in the energy drinks sector in the future. Frucor also says the lower price reflects tough market conditions where interest rates are rising and new issues have looked unsteady.But the issue has been a relative success despite the lower price. Frucor was bought out by private investors from the Apple and Pear Board in 1998 for NZ$50m. Now just half the company has sold for twice that.Frucor is forecast to make a profit of NZ$31m this year and $42.5m next year compared with $17.9m and $15.9m in the past two years. David Robertson


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