Uni-President seeking partners to grow in China

By Dominique Patton

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: United states, Soft drink, China

Uni-President, Taiwan's biggest food group, is looking for private
equity to allow it to expand further in the Chinese beverage
sector, according to a report.

The company, which has been aggressively buying up stakes in Chinese soft drink companies during the last two years, would join up with private investors to get around restrictions by Taiwan's government on investing in China, reported the Financial Times​.

"We are looking around for private equity as a partner in our expansion in the soft drinks market,"​ Mandy Hsieh, chief financial officer of President Enterprises (China) Investment, the group's China company, told the paper.

Taiwan bans its listed companies from investing more than 40 per cent of their net worth in China. Uni-President is currently close to this limit, having expanded significantly in the fast-growing market in recent years.

Yet the Chinese soft drinks sector offers rich growth opportunities, with a compound annual growth rate of 12.8 per cent between 1998-2003, according to Datamonitor figures, and forecast growth in value of 8.4 per cent to 2008.

This compares with just 2.1 per cent growth expected each year in Japan, and 1.8 per cent in the US. Uni-President's domestic market is also more mature than the fast-growing beverages sector on mainland China.

Such attractive growth spurred it to secure a 5 per cent stake in China's biggest producer of fruit juices China Hui Yuan Juice Holdings, a subsidiary of Beijing Hui Yuan Juice & Beverage Group, this time last year.

It also has a stake in Jianlibao, the country's number three after Coca-Cola and Pepsico, and beverage sales in China now make up more than half of its activities in this market.

Hsieh added that the Uni-President was likely to make more acquisitions this year in an effort to increase revenue in China by 40 per cent from about RMB9 billion (€932m) last year.

President is also planning a Hong Kong listing for its mainland operations later this year or early in 2007, another strategy that could help it dilute the parent company's stake in its China operations.

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