San Miguel Corporation has made tentative moves to buy back the Philippines operations of Australia's Coca-Cola Amatil (CCA). San Miguel and The Coca-Cola Co. sold Coca-Cola Bottlers Philippines to CCA three years ago for $A3.5 billion, San Miguel receiving 220 million CCA shares for its 70% stake.

Its interest follows a fall of about 30% in CCA's share price in the past two months. The current trading price of about $A3.10 is a seven-year low and about $5 down on the price 12 months ago.

The inquiries also follow a 10% slump consumption of Coca-Cola in the Philippines in 1999, a slump which CCA says is due to a general downturn in consumer confidence.

A CCA spokesman said that "no proposal has been put to us". He said that CCA was forecasting an eventual return to sales growth in the Philippines, which had been 33% two years ago.

With that expectation, it had announced last December a review and re-
structuring of all its Philippines' operations, including distribution and packaging.

The market was a major one for CCA, making up about 40% of its total sales of one billion cases. There were 20 plants in operation though two in Manila have been closed as part of the re-structuring. San Miguel called off a global offering of its CCA stock last September when CCA's shares fell to $A5.30.

Chris Snow