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Kothari group plans to sell mineral water brand 

Pummy Kaul  
New Delhi, June 19: Kothari Beverages, the owners of the `Yes' brand of mineral water, is believed to be in talks with Nestle, Coca-Cola and Britannia for either a complete sellout of the brand or a strategic equity alliance.

Kothari Beverages chairman and managing director Deepak Kothari confirmed that talks were on with prospective partners but declined to disclose names of the companies or the nature of partnership.

Nestle India chairman Carlo S Donati, when contacted, refused to comment. "Even if I was talking to any company for acquisition or a partnership deal, I won't be talking to the press about it since it's not fair to talk when negotiations are on," he said.

"We're talking to two-three multinationals and unless we finalise the negotiations, I can't give out the details," Kothari said.

However, reliable sources said Nestle, Coca-Cola India and Britannia were among the companies eyeing the Yes brand. Kothari is likely to finalise the deal with one of the MNCs in the next few weeks, sourcessaid. The company is said to have recently conducted a "plant audit" for the potential partners.

Kothari Beverages has 12 plants spread over the country including its Nadiad plant in Gujarat, and others in Kanpur, Bangalore, Badhi, Mumbai. It also has five franchisees in Jaipur, Raipur, Nepal, Ahmedabad and Hyderabad. Each plant contributes about Rs 20 crore to the total turnover of Rs 80 crore.

Even though the mineral water is pretty crowded with over 114 brands, the multinational companies are leaping into the Rs 300 crore market. While Nestle, last week, launched its premier brand Perrier in Delhi and Mumbai, the food major is yet to introduce its popular priced brand Pure Life in the market.

Since distribution is the key in the marketing of mineral water in India, acquistion of a readymade distribution network makes ample sense to any multinational company.

Soft drinks major PepsiCo has already entered the market with its brand Aquafina targeted at the youth. However, Coke, Brittannia and HLL areyet to make their presence in the market. Even as the industry sources say that Coke's mineral water brand Dasani is expected to be launched in August, the company spokesperson says Coke has no such plans. Britannia is currently marketing Danon's premium brand Evian in the country.

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