UPDATE 1-Coca-Cola CFO Fayard to retire

Thu Feb 20, 2014 5:23pm EST

Feb 20 (Reuters) - Coca-Cola Co said on Thursday that Chief Financial Officer Gary Fayard would retire in May, and it named Kathy Waller, controller, to succeed him as CFO.

Fayard, 62, has been CFO for about 15 years. Waller, 55, joined Coke in 1987 from Deloitte.

"Gary's a great guy, he's been a great CFO. He doesn't just know the numbers, he can describe the company's strategy as well as an operating guy," said Kevin Dryer, a portfolio manager at Gabelli Funds LLC.

The announcement from the world's biggest soda company came hours after rival PepsiCo was hit with a renewed push from billionaire activist investor Nelson Peltz to split its challenged North American beverage business from its more robust snacks operation.

Coke and PepsiCo are grappling with declining soda sales in the United States, as increasingly health-conscious consumers opt for alternatives like bottled water and tea.

Coca-Cola's chief executive, Muhtar Kent, is scheduled to speak at the Consumer Analyst Group of New York conference in Boca Raton, Florida, on Friday.

Some conference attendees expect Kent to discuss Coke's plans to refranchise some of its bottling operations following the 2010 acquisition of its North American bottler, which was aimed at cutting costs, speeding innovation and turning around a sagging market. PepsiCo did a similar deal.

While Coke and Pepsi have traditionally moved together on major initiatives, they are currently out of step. Coke has been open about its plan to ultimately franchise its North American bottler, while PepsiCo has not.

PepsiCo says it has carefully weighed a variety of corporate changes, ranging from a spin-off of North American beverages to the sale of some bottling operations.

It has said that its current structure was best for shareholders since the interplay between North American snacks and beverages benefit its overall business.

Coke's shares closed up 0.5 percent at $37.30 on the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday.

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