In what analysts say is another blow to recession-battered Greece, the Athens-based Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Co. SA (CCH) on Thursday announced it is pulling up stakes and moving to Switzerland.
The move aims ''to facilitate a primary listing'' of the Coca-Cola Hellenic Group on the London Stock Exchange, according to an Athens-bourse company filing today. The world's second-largest bottler of Coca-Cola drinks, CCH has 5% of its overall activity in Greece, and those factories will keep operating, according to the filing. But financial analysts interpreted the move as yet another bad omen for Greece, which is struggling through its 5th consecutive recession year and battling to stay in the eurozone. Stakeholders in CCH, which already has secondary listings in London and New York, will trade in their shares for shares of Coca-Cola HBC AG, set up in Switzerland by Kar-Tess Holding on Sept. 19. The primary listing of CCH's shares in London enhances liquidity and ''better reflects the international nature of the company's business and of CCH shareholders,'' according to the company statement. CCH, which is 23% owned by US-based Coca Cola Co., bottles Coke and other drinks destined for 28 countries from Russia to Nigeria, but 95% of its shareholders and activities are outside Greece. Following a 6-billion-euro capitalization, it became Greece's biggest company, equal to one fifth of the entire Athens stock exchange. Company officials recently complained of new tax hikes under the government's austerity plan. CCH shares dropped 5.8% to 15.49 euros a shares on today's announcement.