Coca-Cola Co. has confirmed the long-rumoured appointment of Muhtar Kent as president and chief operating officer.

Kent, who rejoined Coke last year from Efes Beverage Group, becomes the number two executive behind Coke's chairman and CEO Neville Isdell. He fills a role left vacant since a management reshuffle two years ago.

The appointment is a notable coup for Kent, who was forced to resign in 1997 from Coke bottler Coca-Cola Amatil following an investigation into the trading of shares in the Australia-based company.

Kent was managing director of Coca-Cola Amatil-Europe when his financial adviser sold short 100,000 shares of Amatil on Kent's behalf just hours before the company issued a profit warning in November 1996.

Investors who "short" shares typically borrow them and sell them, betting the price will fall and they will be able to buy the shares back later at a lower price for return to the lender.

Once the shares fell, Kent repurchased the devalued stock for his broker and kept the difference in price - about $324,000.

Kent cooperated with investigators and settled the case, repaying the profit from the stock sale and paying about $30,000 toward the cost of the investigation. Nevertheless, he resigned from the company and left in 1999.

Isdell insisted Kent was a man of the "highest integrity." He said Kent had overseen "significant success" since he returned to Coke last May to head its the North Asia, Eurasia and Middle East Group. Earlier this year, Kent was promoted to the position of president, Coca-Cola International.

Isdell said: "His ability to realise growth across the entire non-alcoholic beverage sector in our key international markets has been central to our success. Additionally, Muhtar's close working relationship with our bottling partners has enabled us to capture marketplace opportunities and improve the way we do business."

Prior to rejoining Coke last year, Kent served as CEO and president of Efes Beverage Group from 1999. From 1995 to 1998, Kent was managing director of Coca-Cola Amatil-Europe, covering bottling operations in 12 countries. He first joined Coke in Atlanta in 1978.