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Coca-Cola's African subsidiary eyes more consolidation in continent

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FILE PHOTO: A worker stands next to a shelf with bottles of Coca-Cola at Makro Store Riversands of South African retailer Massmart in Midrand
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By Promit Mukherjee

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Coca-Cola Beverages Africa (CCBA), the biggest bottling unit of Coca-Cola in the continent, is eyeing further consolidation of the parent's bottling operations there, its chief executive said on Tuesday, as it prepares to go public.

CCBA is the Atlanta-based company's eighth biggest bottling company with operations in 14 countries in the continent. Its spate of acquisitions since 2017 has brought bottling operations in Zambia, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, South Africa and other smaller bottlers under its fold to form a $3.2 billion behemoth by 2021.

"At CCBA, we firmly believe (in) one bottler, one country because that is the only way we can win in Africa," said CCBA CEO Jacques Vermeulen, during a virtual presentation to investors.

The company is also open to brand acquisitions and partnerships with other beverage makers in the continent, he added, but stressed that consolidation is second only to organic growth in its priorities.

Coca-Cola had said in April it was planning to list CCBA over the next 18 months, depending on market conditions. The primary listing would be in Amsterdam with a secondary listing on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE).

Vermeulen did not reveal further details on the initial public offering.

Based on its revenue, CCBA could be among the top 40 companies on the local stock exchange.

The company has outpaced most of Coca-Cola's other bottling units in volume growth, but sales took a hit during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chief Financial Officer Norton Kingwill said the company has returned to double-digit top-line growth and almost fully recovered to pre-pandemic levels.

Parent Coca-Cola will report full-year 2021 results, including for CCBA, in February.

(Reporting by Promit Mukherjee; Editing by Richard Chang)

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