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Coke Seeks Control Over Bottler

August 30, 2001

ATLANTA (AP) _ Stung by continuing operational problems in Germany, Coca Cola Co. is seeking greater control in the management of its largest German bottler, Berlin-based Coca-Cola Erfrischungsgetranke AG.

The soft drink giant has struggled with falling sales and weak marketing for more than a year in Germany, its largest and most lucrative European market.

Coke, which owns slightly more than 41 percent of the bottler, would like a control agreement to resolve management troubles ``for a short period of time,″ spokesman Ben Deutsch said Thursday. Such an agreement would be subject to regulatory approval.

Coke’s German case volume sales fell 12 percent in the second quarter. Last month, Charles S. Frenette, the former head of Coke’s Europe/Africa division, left the company as part of the continuing reorganization.

Two partners, German brewers Bayerische Brau Holding AG and Stuttgart Hofbrau AG, together control about 33 percent of the bottler, which had revenue of $1.8 billion last year. Those companies also are involved with the Coke talks.

Erfrischungsgetranke AG accounted for about 70 percent of the 700 million unit cases Coke sold in Germany last year. Germany is Coke’s fifth largest market, after the U.S., Mexico, Brazil and Japan.

Coke shares rose $1.09 to close at $48.79 Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange.


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