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PepsiCo looks to bid for Balaji Wafers

ATLANTA/MUMBAI: PepsiCo, the world's largest snack-food maker, is among suitors exploring a bid for India's Balaji Wafers as it pushes to sell more chips in developing countries, said two people familiar with the matter.

PepsiCo hasn't submitted an offer and a deal may not emerge, said the people, who asked not to be named because the deliberations are private. Balaji, based in Rajkot, manufactures and distributes potato chips and other grain-based bagged snacks in flavors such as masala.

Chief executive officer 
Indra Nooyi has tried to wrest a greater share of snack markets in developing countries by appealing to local tastes. Nooyi has introduced new chip flavors such as crab in countries like Russia, and has acquired top brands in other regions. Jeff Dahncke, a spokesman for PepsiCo, declined to comment.

A call to Balaji Wafers' headquarters went unanswered. Balaji, founded in 1976 by Chandubhai Virani as a supplier of snacks to a movie theater, is a regional brand with operations in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan.

The Virani family plans to sell up to a 49% stake for as much as $300 million, one of the people said. Per-capita consumption of salty snacks in India is a fraction of that in Mexico, one of PepsiCo's biggest snack markets, according to a February presentation by the Purchase, New York-based food company.