Disgraced FTSE giant Coca-Cola HBC continues to bottle drinks for Russia
- Coca-Cola HBC is the European bottler of the US giant The Coca-Cola Company
- In March 2022, The Coca-Cola Company ceased all operations in Russia
- But Coca-Cola HBC started producing a Russian version called Dobry Cola
Coca-Cola HBC continues to operate in Russia despite Vladimir Putin’s brutal war in Ukraine, The Mail on Sunday is able to reveal.
It is one of the few blue-chip UK-listed companies still operating in the country and has defied calls for his resignation from MPs and campaigners.
The latest controversy follows a revelation in the MoS’s Fat Cat Files that boss Zoran Bogdanovic, a Croatian national, has received more than £500,000 in “living allowances” over the past two years on top of his £4.1million salary.
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The FTSE 100 company, the European bottler of US soft drink giant The Coca-Cola Company, has refused to close its factories in Russia even as many big brands have left the country.
In March last year, The Coca-Cola Company announced it would cease all operations in Russia, saying in a statement: “Our hearts go out to the people who are suffering the unacceptable impact of these tragic events in Ukraine.”
But Coca-Cola HBC chose not to follow suit and instead started making a substitute — a local Russian version called Dobry Cola, which is sold in a familiar-looking red can.
A year ago it was said the company would continue to operate in Russia as Multon Partners — a local juice company it bought in 2005.
The company operates ten bottling plants, including three in Moscow, one in St. Petersburg and another in Rostov-on-Don near the Ukrainian border.
Labor MP Chris Bryant told the MoS: “I am angry that people seem to think it is acceptable business practice to continue raking in rubles when innocent people in Ukraine are being bombed out of their homes in a deliberate war of aggression. “
Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine has killed thousands
Dobry Cola is the dominant player in Russia with more than a third of the soft drink bottling market.
Earlier this month, Coca-Cola HBC raised its full-year profit guidance after a record performance. Operating profit more than doubled to £480m in the six months to June.
The Coca-Cola Company, which holds a 23 per cent stake, received a £57m dividend in June.
The Atlanta-headquartered giant said, “Consistent with our decision to cease our business in Russia last March, we will not benefit from any operations there.” “Any indirect benefit will be directed to charitable and social causes.”
Coca-Cola HBC’s other major investors also include Kar-Tess Holding, a company affiliated with the company’s Chairman Anastassis David, and investment firms BlackRock, Norges Bank, Fidelity and Aviva.
Coca-Cola HBC said: “Following the decision by The Coca-Cola Company in March 2022 to cease operations in Russia, Coca-Cola HBC switched to a 100% local company in Russia called Multon Partners.”
“It’s a self-sufficient company run by a local team and focused on local brands like Dobry Cola.” The Coca-Cola Company has no involvement in these operations. Our focus is to ensure the business remains self-sufficient and that we can protect our people and our assets.”
Other FTSE 100 giants are also refusing calls to stop doing business in Russia.
Consumer goods giant Unilever claims it is logistically very difficult to sell or close its operations there.
According to the Moral Ratings Agency, Unilever – whose brands include Dove, Ben & Jerry’s and Marmite – made about £556million in Russia last year.
The company’s new chief executive, Hein Schumacher, claims that the company’s demise “could lead to nationalization,” citing the acquisition of French yogurt maker Danone’s Russian subsidiary earlier this summer.