UPDATE 2-Coca-Cola announces growth plan as profit falls 14 pct
(Recasts, adds background, details from conference call and new share price)
By Anjali Athavaley
Oct 21 (Reuters) - Coca-Cola Co on Tuesday announced new cost-cutting measures and a timeline for selling its bottling operations after its quarterly profit slumped 14 percent and the world's largest beverage maker struggles to find growth amid a soft market for soda.
The Atlanta-based company said it would hand back, or refranchise, about two-thirds of its North American bottling territories by the end of 2017, and a substantial portion of the remaining territories no later than 2020.
It is the clearest timeline that Coke has given to date as it seeks to sell the bottling operations to franchisees in a bid to shift away from the capital intensive and low-margin business of distribution.
Coke also said that it was targeting $3 billion in cost savings by 2019, up from its announcement in February of $1 billion.
But the moves failed to impress investors. Coke shares were down 6 percent to $40.54 on Tuesday morning and down 1.8 percent this year while the S&P 500 was up 4.3 percent.
Coke is grappling with deteriorating economic conditions in major emerging markets as well as softness in consumer spending in the United States and Europe.
"This is placing strong pressure on the short-term performance of our business," said Chief Executive Muhtar Kent on the company's earnings conference call. Continued...