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Coca-Cola to buy Costa coffee chain for $5.1 billion

LONDON — Coca-Cola is to plug a gap in its portfolio with the acquisition of the Costa coffee brand from British firm Whitbread for 3.9 billion pounds ($5.1 billion) in cash.

The deal represents a big return to Whitbread, which bought Costa in 1995 for 19 million pounds. Since then, Costa has grown from just 39 shops to become the biggest coffee firm in Britain. In recent years, Whitbread has invested heavily in Costa’s expansion overseas.

James Quincey, Coca-Cola President & CEO, said Friday that Costa will give the company “new capabilities and expertise in coffee.”

Hot beverages, he said, is one of “the few remaining segments of the total beverage landscape where Coca-Cola does not have a global brand.”

The deal is expected to complete in the first half of 2019.