Coca-Cola Co.’s Three Bottlers in Europe in Talks for Merger

Coca-Cola Enterprises, the anchor bottler for Western Europe, is in discussions with its Iberian and German counterparts about a merger. The bottler is planning a three-way deal that would simplify the manufacturing of products for the world’s leading soft-drink company.

A person familiar with the matter told that Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc. is discussing the tie-up with Coca-Cola Iberian Partners and Germany’s Coca-Cola Erfrischungsgetränke AG.

So far terms and conditions of the potential deal have not been learned, but it is likely to be valued well into the billions of dollars.

The Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Enterprises, which is the independent Coke bottler in Western Europe, has a market value of $10.8 billion, on the other hand, Coca-Cola Iberian Partners, which is also an independent of Coca-Cola, is closely held.

Due to fall in its soda sales in several markets including Europe where consumers have shifted their preference towards much healthy fare, the company has been planning to merge its smaller overseas bottlers into bigger.

The company believes by doing this they will be able to market and advertise Coke and other beverages and have more flexibility in pricing and packaging.

Consumers have been moving away from high-calorie soft drinks toward bottled water, energy drinks and teas, taxing smaller, less efficient and flexible bottlers.

Coke has simultaneously been grappling with the refranchising of its North American bottlers, which has been expensive and slow to pay-off.

The sources told that Coke produces concentrates that it distributes to hundreds of mostly independent bottling partners across the globe. Making and selling concentrate is a higher-margin and less-capital-intensive business than bottling the soft drinks, it added.