Coke opens Saudi plant in bid to reign in Middle East

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RIYADH--Coca-Cola Co. has opened a $20 million bottling plant in Saudi Arabia in a bid to bump up its claimed 41% regional market share in the Middle East and North Africa. The plant is Coke's third in Saudi Arabia. Five years after its arrival here, Coke claims a 30% slice of the Saudi soft drink market.

"It is this growth momentum which we have generated in Saudi Arabia and throughout the [Persian] Gulf which has largely driven our push to become the No. 1 soft drink company in the Middle East and North Africa region," says John Guarino, senior region manager for Coca-Cola Gulf.

Life in the Middle East has not always been so rosy for Coke. The Arab League boycotted the soft drink during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, because of its American image, says Robert Edwards, marketing manager for Coca-Cola Egypt. In 1978, the company re-entered the Egyptian market -- one of Coke's largest in the region. Now, Coke enjoys a 57% market share in Egypt, compared to rival Pepsi's 35%, Edwards says.

Copyright May 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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