DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- The Coca-Cola Co. is buying roughly half of Saudi Arabia's Aujan Industries for $980 million, pairing the U.S. soda giant with one of the Middle East's top independent beverage companies.
Under the terms of the deal announced Wednesday, Atlanta-based Coca-Cola will get a 50 percent stake in the part of Aujan that holds rights to the company's brands, and 49 percent of its distribution company.
The companies say it is the largest investment yet by a multinational firm in the region's consumer goods industry.
The fast-growing Middle East has some of the world's highest rates of nonalcoholic drink consumption, said Ahmet C. Bozer, who heads Coca-Cola's Eurasia and Africa Group.
"In addition to their great brands, we are investing in Aujan because it is a well-run, successful business. This transaction creates a platform for further cooperation between The Coca-Cola Company, Aujan and existing bottling partners across the region," Bozer said in a statement.
Aujan sells the popular Rani line of fruit drinks and the nonalcoholic malt drink Barbican throughout the Middle East. It also holds the regional license for Vimto, a British spiced fruit drink that is popular with many Muslims celebrating the holy month of Ramadan.
The acquisition doesn't include Aujan's manufacturing and distribution business in Iran, which is subject to multiple U.S. sanctions.
Family-run Aujan was founded in 1905 and is based in the eastern city of Dammam on Saudi Arabia's Persian Gulf coast. It employs more than 2,500 people and brings in revenue of more than $850 million annually.
In a statement, Aujan Chairman Adel Aujan said the deal will better position the company to succeed both in the region and internationally.
The companies expect the deal to close in the first half of 2012.