Coke CEO Muhtar Kent hands reins to Quincey in widely expected move

Fri Dec 9, 2016 1:58pm EST
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By Siddharth Cavale and Sruthi Ramakrishnan

(Reuters) - Coca-Cola Co said on Friday that Muhtar Kent would step aside as chief executive next year and be replaced by James Quincey, a company veteran credited with several recent changes to help the company cut its dependence on sugary drinks.

Quincey's ascension was widely expected since he became chief operating officer in August 2015 after jobs that included running Coke's businesses in Europe and Mexico over two decades.

Kent, 64, will have completed nine years at the helm when he steps down in May, but he will continue as chairman of the board, a post he has held since 2009, Coke said.

Coke's shares were up 2.6 percent to $42.04 in afternoon trading, making the stock biggest percentage gainer on the Dow Jones industrial average.

Quincey, 51, is credited with several changes at Coke including introducing smaller bottles to boost profit and reducing the sugar and calorie content in drinks – initiatives he would continue to focus on, the CEO-designate said on Friday.

"The future in terms of the beverage industry in some parts of the world – yes, there'll be less added sugar, and yes, we think we need to push ahead with the smaller packages and reformulations and innovations," Quincey said.

He said Coke would also concentrate on its sparkling beverage business, push into other drink categories and continue to innovate.

Coke still gets about 70 percent of its volume sales from sodas and its sales have fallen in the last three years on sagging demand for sugary drinks, which health experts and governments have blamed for rising obesity levels.   Continued...

The Coca-Cola Company President and Chief Operating Officer James Quincey delivers a speech during a presentation in Paris, France, January 19, 2016. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier