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Pepsi sees red over orange soda buy

PepsiCo Inc. asked French government officials to block Coca-Cola Co.'s pending purchase of carbonated drink Orangina, saying it would create a virtual monopoly in the orange soda segment in France.

Coca-Cola has a 49.6 percent share of the French carbonated soft-drink market, compared with 9 percent for PepsiCo. Orangina would add about 10 percentage points to the Atlanta-based company's market share. France is Orangina's biggest market.

The complaint is the latest legal battle between the two U.S. soft-drink companies. Earlier this month, Pepsi sued Coca-Cola in India, claiming its rival was stealing employees and bottlers. Coca-Cola, meantime, is attempting to prevent baseball players for the Baltimore Orioles, which it sponsors, from appearing in ads for PepsiCo product Mountain Dew.

A spokesman for Purchase, N.Y.-based Pepsi confirmed that the company recently filed a complaint with the French Ministry of Economy and Finance, but declined further comment. A Coca-Cola spokesman also declined comment.

France can approve the acquisition, or send it to a competition council for further review.

Coca-Cola is also dealing with unions that represent more than 400 Orangina employees, who want those jobs guaranteed as part of the acquisition.

Coca-Cola agreed to buy Orangina in December from France's Pernod Ricard SA for $838.6-million to expand its line of beverages and build sales in Europe.

Coca-Cola's shares fell $1.25 to $72.37{ Monday, while Pepsi fell 62{ cents to $43.

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