Coke to buy Coca-Cola Enterprises’s North American assets

Coke to buy Coca-Cola Enterprises’s North American assets

New York: Coca-Cola Co plans to buy the North American operations of its largest bottler, Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc, in a substantially cashless deal that would cut costs and increase flexibility in its distribution.

CCE shares rose 30% to $24.93 in trading before the market opened, while Coke fell 3% to $53.49.

Coke’s announcement on Thursday comes just as rival PepsiCo Inc is about to close its own $7.8 billion purchase of its largest bottlers, Pepsi Bottling Group Inc and PepsiAmericas Inc.

Coke said it would buy CCE’s North American business, which consists of about 75% of its US bottler-delivered sales volume and almost all of its Canadian bottler-delivered volume.

Coke already owns about 34% of CCE, a stake worth $3.21 billion at Wednesday’s close.

The acquisition includes consideration of Coke’s current stake, $8.88 billion of CCE debt and all the North American assets and liabilities.

In addition, the companies agreed in principle that CCE would buy Coke’s bottling operations in Norway and Sweden for $822 million and have the right to acquire the soft-drink maker’s 83% equity stake in its German bottling operations 18 months to 36 months after closing for fair value.

Coke said it expected to generate cost savings of $350 million over four years and that the transactions, which are substantially cashless, should add to earnings by 2012.

A new entity that will keep the name Coca-Cola Enterprises will be created through a split-off that will hold CCE’s European businesses. CCE will pay its shareholders, excluding Coke, a special one-time dividend of $10 per share.