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COKE TO BUILD BOTTLING PLANT IN CHINA’S YUNNAN PROVINCE

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A new Coca-Cola bottling plant will be built in southwestern China's most famous tourist destination, officials said this week.

The $22 million plant will be built in Yunnan Province's capital of Kunming, Coca-Cola executives announced. The Kunming facility will bottle Coca-Cola and Sprite, believed to be China's largest-selling international soft drinks.The new plant, a Sino-Malaysian joint venture, will be built on a 431,000-square foot site, with production expected to begin in early 1996, officials said.

Kunming is adjacent to popular tourist attractions like the Stone Forest and the autonomous regions that are home to several of China's ethnic minorities. Coca-Cola executives said they believed that was reason enough for having a presence in Yunnan Province.

"As the number of hotels, restaurants and shops expands, Coca-Cola will be there to serve the needs of our customers and consumers," said Kuok Khoon Chen, chairman of Kerry Beverages Ltd., a major partner in the project.

The Kunming plant is one of several steps in the company's drive to make the soft drink accessible throughout the world's most populous nation, Coca-Cola executives said.

Kerry, a division of a Malaysian conglomerate which also is a Coca-Cola subsidiary, will hold the majority stake in the project. Minority stakes will be held by the China Beverage and Foodstuff Import and Export Corp., the Yunnan Sugar Corp. and Yanston Investment Ltd., a subsidiary of the Yunnan Foreign Economic Relations and Trade Commission.

The Kunming plant represents the eighth joint venture for Kerry Beverages in China. It has signed commitments for the construction of new plants in Shenyang, Qingdao, Wuhan, Harbin and Taiyuan, and for the upgrading of existing Coca-Cola plants in Dalian and Nanning and work at most locations already is under way, officials said.

Preliminary agreement has been reached on building a Coke plant in Hefei, but details have not yet been determined, Coca-Cola officials said.

Coca-Cola already has facilities in 13 Chinese cities, including Beijing, Tianjin, Nanjing, Guangzhou, Zhuhai and Hainan Island. In Shanghai, the company has a concentrate plant and a bottling facility.

Company executives estimate by 1996, Coca-Cola will have 23 bottling facilities in China.