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Report: Coca-Cola poised to bid for GSK's Indian consumer products unit

Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Co. will "firm up its interest" in GlaxoSmithKline PLC's Indian consumer products business, which includes the Horlicks brand, ahead of a deadline for first-round bids, The Sunday Telegraph reported Sept. 9, citing sources.

It was reported in June that the soft drinks giant is among the parties interested in GSK's Horlicks business, which could reportedly be sold for up to £3 billion.

GSK started a strategic review of Horlicks and its other consumer healthcare products in March to help fund its $13 billion joint venture with Novartis AG. As part of the process, GSK said it will review its 72.5% stake in its Indian consumer nutrition business, GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare Ltd., which sells health drinks and biscuits under the Horlicks, Boost and Maltova brands.

Other companies that are also reportedly eyeing the stake include Coca-Cola rival PepsiCo Inc.; global consumer food giants Nestlé SA, Danone, The Kraft Heinz Co., Kellogg Co., Hindustan Unilever Ltd. and Mondelez International Inc.; healthcare products manufacturer Abbott Laboratories; household goods producer Reckitt Benckiser Group PLC; and private equity firm KKR & Co.

The report follows Coca-Cola's recent purchase of coffee shop chain Costa Ltd. from parent Whitbread PLC. The soft drinks company also was reported to be among the top contenders in the race to acquire Kraft Heinz's India business, consisting of children's milk drink Complan and Nycil talcum powder.

The British newspaper said Coca-Cola is trying to diversify its beverage business as more consumers avoid sugary drinks and lean toward healthier options.

The company, GSK and Citigroup Inc., Coca-Cola's reported adviser for the deal, declined to comment on the matter, The Sunday Telegraph said.