By Dimitra Manifava
Just a couple of days after the announcement by dairy giant FAGE that it is moving its headquarters to Luxembourg, Greece’s largest company, Coca-Cola HBC, the world’s second-biggest Coke bottler, said on Thursday that it too would be leaving the country.
Coca-Cola Hellenic will be Hellenic no more as it has finally decided to turn its threats into action and transfer to Switzerland. It will also be listed on the London Stock Exchange, although it will stay on the Athens bourse too.
The company’s Chairman of the Board of Directors George David had referred to the high corporate taxation and unstable tax environment in this country several times in the past. With these two moves, CCHBC is now expecting to increase its credit capacity and draw more funds. After all in 2013 it will have to pay interest that amounts to half a billion euros.
The vehicle for these changes will be the holdings company Coca-Cola HBC AG, set up last month in Switzerland by Kar-Tess Holding, which holds a 23.5 percent stake in CCHBC. This new firm will be the group’s parent company and will submit an optional public offer for the acquisition of the whole of Coca-Cola Hellenic. The shareholders of 60.7 percent have already agreed to the transaction. Once the transfer is complete, CCHBC AG is expecting to receive approval for its listing on the London Stock Exchange in the Premium category. The company will then aim at entering the London market’s blue chip FTSE 100 index.
On the other hand, leading Greek ale producer Athenian Brewery announced on Thursday that not only is it not planning on leaving Greece but that it will start using more Greek raw materials and will double its exports, according to its chief executive officer, Zooullis Mina.
Responding to reporters about the departures of FAGE and CCHBC, Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis said: “I cannot dictate to each company what moves it should make. What we can do beyond the fiscal measures is continue down the road of structural reforms.”