F.T.C. clears Coca-Cola acquisition of bottler

by Eric Schroeder
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WASHINGTON — The U.S. Federal Trade Commission on Sept. 27 cleared Atlanta-based The Coca-Cola Co.’s proposed $12.3 billion acquisition of the North American operations of Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc. (C.C.E.), its largest North American bottler. In issuing its clearance, though, the F.T.C. said it will require Coca-Cola to restrict its access to confidential competitive business information of rival Dr Pepper Snapple Group, whose Dr Pepper Snapple carbonated beverages also are distributed by C.C.E.

Under terms of the settlement with the F.T.C., Coca-Cola has agreed to set up a “firewall” to ensure that its ownership of the bottling company does not give certain Coca-Cola employees access to commercially sensitive confidential Dr Pepper Snapple marketing information and brand plans. Earlier, the F.T.C. had claimed access to such information likely would have harmed competition in the U.S. markets for carbonated soft drinks.

“We are pleased to have received regulatory clearance for the acquisition of C.C.E.’s North American business,” said Muhtar Kent, chairman and chief executive officer of Coca-Cola. “The thoughtful and disciplined planning process for our new North American business structure will enable us to operate as one strong, aligned business system, with increased operating effectiveness and efficiency. Upon close, we will be well positioned to best serve the unique needs of our flagship market and accelerate growth for the Coca-Cola system.”

C.C.E. shareowners are expected to vote on the acquisition on Oct. 1. Once the acquisition is completed, the North American operations of C.C.E. will be known as Coca-Cola Refreshments USA, Inc.

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