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Coca-Cola to invest $4 billion more in China starting 2012

Bottles of Coca-Cola are seen on sale at a supermarket in Xiangfan
Bottles of Coca-Cola are seen on sale at a supermarket in Xiangfan

BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Coca-Cola , the world's largest soft drinks producer said on Thursday it will invest $4 billion more in China over the next three years starting from 2012.

By the end of 2011, Coca-Cola and its China bottling partners would have invested more than $3 billion in the country over the last three years, bringing the total investment to $7 billion by the end of 2014.

"China is one of our most important growth markets in the world," said Muhtar Kent, Coca-Cola's chief executive, in a statement.

"The new investment is a part of our long-term commitment to invest in innovation, partnerships and a portfolio that will enable us to grow our business in a sustainable and responsible way," Kent said.

Kent told Xinhua in an interview that the investment will be used to expand the company's product lines, infrastructure and distribution systems as well as invest in cold drinks equipment.

Coca-Cola said sales in China topped 1 billion unit cases in the first six months of the year, double the rate five years ago.

The firm also said it opened one bottling plant already this year and will open one more bottling plant and break ground by the end of 2011. Coca-Cola opened five plants in China from 2009 to 2010.

Kent said the three new plants will create 940 jobs directly and represented an investment of around $230 million.

On the possibility of listing on the international board of the Shanghai Stock Exchange, which is still under discussion, the Coca-Cola CEO told Xinhua if the opportunity arose, it would be interested.

"It will be a mutually beneficial action if we are listed," Kent told Xinhua, adding that "it would be a good thing not just for the reasons of capitalization but also for reasons of being a stronger part of the Chinese community."

(Reporting by Ken Wills and Melanie Lee; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

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