Coca-Cola Co. is reportedly ready to promote the head of its international operations to the position of chief operating officer.

The US soft drinks giant is grooming Muhtar Kent (pictured) to become its number two executive behind chairman and CEO Neville Isdell, according to a report in the Atlanta Journal - Constitution yesterday (15 October).

The report said the promotion would make Kent, 54, the leading candidate to replace Isdell, who could step down in two years.

Coke officials in Atlanta could not be reached for comment as just-drinks went to press.

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.