By Daniel Hunter

SABMiller Plc are to combine bottling operations with Coca-Cola in parts of Africa as they look to strengthen their partnership with French drinks company Groupe Castel.

Reports in Bloomberg quoted SABMiller as saying "Castel are partners of ours, so what we’d want to do is show them the benefits of what we’re doing and try and see if we can work together on further opportunities,” Mark Bowman, managing director of SABMiller Africa, said in an interview in Johannesburg.

SABMiller is increasing its focus on sodas and other non-alcoholic beverages as global demand for beer stagnates and targets for consolidation become harder to find. The joint venture with Coca-Cola will have annual revenue of almost $3 billion and will be among the world’s top 10 bottlers, with 40 percent of the African market.

“We’ve always been acutely aware of the fact that we’re a beer-centric organization with strong soft-drink interests, particularly in Africa,” Bowman said. The Coca-Cola deal is a way to even out the two businesses, he said.

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