Coca-Cola agreed to buy the UK chain Costa Coffee for £3.9bn, stepping into a battle with Nestlé and Starbucks as it gains a global brand in hot drinks. Whitbread agreed to sell Costa at a price that is 16 times this year’s earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation, the companies said in a statement Friday. "Hot beverages is one of the few remaining segments of the total beverage landscape where Coca-Cola does not have a global brand," Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey said in the statement. "Costa gives us access to this market through a strong coffee platform." Makers of soft drinks are branching out as consumers seek alternatives to sugary sodas. Earlier in August, PepsiCo agreed to pay $3.2bn for SodaStream, which makes carbonated-water dispensers.

Costa outranks Starbucks in the UK and is expanding in markets such as China. The company was one of the few big coffee chains up for sale after Nestlé and the Reimann family’s investment company JAB both went on ...

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