Bottler Coca-Cola HBC mulls other options for Russian business

A Coca-Cola logo is pictured during an event in Paris
A Coca-Cola logo is pictured during an event in Paris, France, March 21, 2019. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

May 12 (Reuters) - Soft drinks bottler Coca-Cola HBC AG (CCH.L) said on Thursday it will evaluate all options for its Russian operations and have a smaller presence in the country, focussing on local brands, after U.S. beverage giant Coca-Cola suspended operations there.

The bottler, which counted Russia as one of its biggest markets, said it was still in the process of implementing the decision by Coca-Cola (KO.N).

Hundreds of Western companies have either withdrawn or suspended operations in Russia since the country invaded Ukraine in February while Western governments have imposed sanctions.

HBC is one of Coca-Cola's many bottlers worldwide and holds local Coca-Cola franchises to bottle and sell drinks produced by the beverage giant. Coca-Cola holds a roughly 21% stake in HBC.

The company, whose annual outlook remains withdrawn, said it has stopped placing orders for concentrate in Russia and ceased investments in the market.

The London-listed company said organic revenue in the first quarter rose 25.9%, excluding Russia and Ukraine.

The Switzerland-headquartered company said it increased prices in the quarter to help manage rising input cost inflation, and that has not negatively impacted volumes.

Reporting by Amna Karimi in Bengaluru; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips

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