HONG KONG (AP) -- The Coca-Cola Co. said Friday it plans to invest $2 billion in China over the next three years on top of the billions of dollars it has already committed to buying out a major Chinese juice producer.
The investment would go toward new plant and distribution infrastructure, sales and marketing, and research and development, the world's largest beverage company said in a statement.
"Coca-Cola is proud to be a long term partner of China, and our commitment and confidence in China never wavers," said CEO Muhtar Kent, who helped unveil Coke's new $90 million research and development center in Shanghai Friday.
The announcement comes as Chinese regulators are reviewing the company's some $2.5 billion friendly takeover bid for Huiyuan Juice Group Ltd., the country's leading maker of pure fruit juices and nectars. The proposal has sparked criticism in China over the possible sale of a prominent national brand name to a foreign company.
Under terms of the deal, the companies have 200 days to complete the acquisition from September. That would be around March 23.
"We have deep respect for the hard work (Chinese commerce officials) are doing as part of the regulatory approval," said Kenth Kaerhoeg, a Coke spokesman in Hong Kong. "We think it would be inappropriate for us to speculate about when (Chinese regulators) will be able to finalize the approval process."
Huiyuan shares fell 0.4 percent to HK$9.05 in Hong Kong trade.