Coca-Cola Enterprises blames "communication error"

Coca-Cola Enterprises blames "communication error"

Coca-Cola Enterprises has reinstated a EUR17m (US$24m) investment plan in France just 24 hours after announcing a review of the spend, amid a backlash from senior politicians.

Last night, the president of Coca-Cola Enterprises in Europe apologised for a "communication error" within Coca-Cola France. "I would like to set the record straight," said Hubert Patricot. "We are reconfirming our EUR17m investment to our Les Pennes-Mirabeau facility."

The apparent climbdown comes just 24 hours after the soft drinks group said that it may scrap the investment, following the French Government's decision to hike value added tax on added-sugar soft drinks. Politicians, including France's labour minister, Xavier Bertrand, strongly criticised the move, with some accusing the company of holding the country to ransom.

"Let there be no doubt, and let me say it as a Frenchman: Coca-Cola is committed to France," said Patricot, who appeared on French television last night. However, he added: "Let me also be clear: we remain strongly opposed to a tax that unjustly targets the purchasing power of the French people and one category of beverages under the pretext of addressing public health concerns.  

"Consumer information and education around increased exercise and balanced diets, not discriminatory taxes, must be part of any comprehensive proposal." In January 2012, VAT on added-sugar soft drinks will rise from 5.5% to 19.6%. The move is expected to generate an extra EUR120m in government revenue.

Patricot said that Coca-Cola employs 3,000 people in France has invested EUR260m there in the last six years.