Greek Coke bottler dismisses reports on possible relocation

ATHENS, June 3 Fri Jun 3, 2011 4:45am EDT

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ATHENS, June 3 (Reuters) - Coca-Cola Hellenic HLBr.AT, Greece's largest company by market value, dismissed on Friday local media reports it was planning to move its base outside Greece.

In a statement the company said media speculation of a potential relocation was unfounded.

"Greece is an important market for the group," CCH Chief Executive Officer Doros Constantinou said in the statement. "Despite the current difficult operating environment, our key aim in Greece is to constantly improve our competitiveness and efficiency."

CCH, the No.2 bottler of Coca-Cola (KO.N) in the world, distributes drinks including Coke, Sprite and Fanta in 27 European countries and Nigeria. Its headquarters have been in Greece since 1969 when the bottler started selling its products in the country.

CCH said last month it was setting up a human resources and finance administration centre in Bulgaria.

This, along with Greece's plans to tax non-alcoholic drinks later this year as part of austerity measures, prompted speculation in Greek media that the bottler could relocate its base outside the country.

Greece last year imposed a tax on corporate dividends along with a windfall tax on large companies' annual profits. The bottler has said the new taxes choke investment and has warned that an excise tax on beverages may hit its profitability. [ID:nLDE67M161]

Corporate taxes are a sticking point between the ruling PASOK party and the main conservative opposition, which has demanded tax cuts and refused last week to approve a new austerity programme. (Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou; Editing by David Holmes)

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