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Anti-Trust Agency to Investigate Controversial Coke Contract

August 23, 1996

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) _ The government’s anti-trust agency opened an investigation Friday into the recent contract between Coca-Cola Co. and Venezuela’s biggest bottler to see if it creates an illegal monopoly.

PepsiCo Inc. last Monday had asked the Superintendency for the Promotion and Protection of Free Competition to annul the contract between Coca-Cola and the Cisneros Group.

The bottler, owned by Venezuela businessman Oswaldo Cisneros, was Pepsi’s exclusive bottler for five decades until last Friday, when it abrogated the contract and signed with Coke.

That denied Pepsi virtually all production and distribution facilities, and reportedly gave Cisneros and Coke control of nearly 98 percent of Venezuela’s soft drink market.

The superintendency’s ruling did not bar Cisneros from continuing to produce and distribute Coca-Cola, which it has for nearly a week.

A final ruling is expected within two months.