Greece’s Biggest Company Quits Country
Greece’s biggest company is leaving the country, drinks bottler Coca Cola Hellenic (CCH) said on Thursday in announcing it will move to Switzerland and list its shares in London, dealing a blow to the debt-crippled Greek economy.
— its Greek plants will go on working and CCH said the five percent of its business that the world’s second-ranked Coke bottler has in Greece will be unaffected. But analysts quickly saw it as bad news for a nation struggling to compete inside the euro zone.
CCH, which already has secondary stock market listings in London and New York [CCH 20.35 -0.71 (-3.37%) ], said in a bourse filing in Athens that shareholders, most of whom are abroad, will exchange all their stock for shares in Coca Cola HBC, based in Switzerland. That stock will have its primary quote in London [CCB.L 14.90 --- UNCH ].
“A primary listing on Europe’s biggest and most liquid stock exchange reflects better the international character of Coca Cola Hellenic’s business activities and shareholder base,” the company said in its regulatory statement.
The firm, in which The Coca-Cola Company [COKE 69.27 0.61 (+0.89%) ] of the United States has a 23-percent stake, bottles Coke and other drinks in 28 countries from Russia to Nigeria. About 95 percent of its shareholders and business activity are outside Greece.
“This transaction makes clear business sense,” chief executive Dimitris Lois told analysts in a conference call. An overwhelming majority of shareholders have already accepted moving a company which has long complained about Greek taxes.