just On Call - Coca-Cola HBC "not cutting Greece investment" - CEO
Greece accounts for about 5% of CCHBC's volumes
The head of Coca-Cola HBC (CCHBC) has said he is cautious over Greece's “fragile” political environment, but has insisted the company will not cut back on investment in the country.
Media reports have warned that Greece could run out of money if a deal over a European Union bailout is not reached before the end of the month. On Monday, talks broke down between EU officials and Greece's newly-elected anti-austerity party, Syriza, which reportedly described the most recent offer as “absurd”.
However, in a call with journalists today, CCHBC's CEO, Dimitris Lois, said the situation has not affected the company's plans for Greece.
“We are not cutting investments,” Lois said. “We are proceeding with the investments we have. These investments address affordability (of our products) and we are not cutting back.”
Greece accounts for about 5% of overall volumes for CCHBC, which before switching its HQ to Switzerland in 2013 was based in Athens. It was one of the largest non-financial companies on the Athens stock exchange before it moved its listing to London, also in 2013.
Lois said plans for Greece include new SKUs, particularly for sparkling flavours, and ongoing investment at CCHBC's main production facility in the country. But, he called on Greek officials to increase disposal income to help kickstart the economy. "We are very cautious as the macro and political environment remains fragile and uncertain," he added.
Asked about Syriza's discussions with the EU over the bailout, Lois said: “We understand that there are intense negotiations. Both parties we feel want to reach an agreement and we are very hopeful it will come.”
Lois also said CCHBC will start rolling out Coca-Cola Life in Switzerland this month. The stevia-and-real-sugar-based CSD was first launched in South America in 2013 but in Europe has so far been restricted to Sweden, the UK and France.
Lois added that, while there are no immediate plans to roll out Coke Life to other CCHBC markets, mature markets would be more likely targets for the future, as emerging regions do not have high enough CSD per-capita consumption levels.
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