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    New Coke COO Sets Record Straight

    Muhtar Kent says company will not acquire Coca-Cola Enterprises, its largest bottler.

    NEW YORK -- Coca-Cola Co. has no intention of acquiring the remainder of Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc., its largest bottler and distributor, the beverage company's newly-appointed president and chief operating officer said yesterday.

    According to a report by Reuters, new Coke COO Muhtar Kent, in his first public appearance since his promotion last week, said Coke will look to grow by targeted acquisitions in the near future. But he stood by the company's previous statement that it does not plan to purchase remaining shares of its largest bottler.

    Some analysts have speculated that Coca-Cola might seek to acquire control of Coca-Cola Enterprises. It already owns about 40 percent of Coke Enterprises.

    In becoming the company's first COO since 2004, Kent said he plans to focus on organic growth and acquisitions -- both at home and abroad. "Every time there is an opportunity, you will see us move with speed and conviction," he said.

    Sales of carbonated soft drinks have been falling in markets like the United States, as health-conscious consumers move toward bottled water or juice. Coca-Cola has weathered the slowdown due to its strength in developing markets, where there is still growth for all types of ready-to-drink beverages in bottles and cans, the Reuters report said.

    When asked whether Coke could still grow without diversifying, Kent said there was still plenty of opportunity in beverages. "There is so much opportunity in every single market. In emerging markets, there is going to be a huge conversion between non-ready-to-drink and ready-to-drink (beverages)," Kent said. "Until there is no opportunity left, I see us focused strategically, with clarity, on nonalcoholic ready-to-drink" beverages.

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