The Coca-Cola Company has created an executive position to head its international operations.

The US soft drinks behemoth has appointed Muhtar Kent - the former head of Turkish drinks company the Efes Beverage Group - to the position, the company said today (17 January).

As head of Coca-Cola International, Kent will be responsible for all operations outside of North America. Kent, currently president and chief operating officer of the company's North Asia, Eurasia and Middle East group, will continue to report directly to chairman and CEO Neville Isdell.

Isdell said: "As we focus even more intently on execution, it is appropriate that our international operations - which accounted last year for more than 70% of our total volume and close to 80% of our total operating income - be put under the leadership of a dedicated, full-time executive with extensive operational expertise."

He added: "Since he returned to the company in May 2005, Muhtar has accomplished much, leading with great skill a critical geographic region that is exceptionally diverse, and comprising key current and future growth drivers for our company - including China, Japan and Russia."

Kent first joined The Coca-Cola Company in Atlanta in 1978 and has held a number of marketing and operations roles throughout his career. From 1989 to 1995, he served as president of Coke's East Central Europe Division and senior vice-president of Coca-Cola International.

Between 1995 and 1998, he was managing director of Coca-Cola Amatil-Europe, covering bottling operations in 12 countries.

Kent served as CEO and president of Efes, the largest local shareholder of Turkish bottler Coca-Cola Icecek, from 1999 until last year. During that time, he also served as a board member of Coca-Cola Icecek.