Greek Coke bottler gets UK approval for share swap plan

ATHENS Fri Mar 8, 2013 7:54am GMT

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ATHENS (Reuters) - A voluntary share exchange offer that will allow Greek Coke bottler Coca-Cola Hellenic (CCH) HLBr.AT to move from Greece to Switzerland and list on the London Stock Exchange has been approved by the British authorities.

CCH said last year it would move its base from cash-strapped Greece to tax-free Switzerland and switch its premier listing from Athens to London. A voluntary share swap offer by Swiss holding company Coca-Cola HBC AG. would facilitate the procedure.

"This is a significant milestone in the process to enable the company to list on the London Stock Exchange," a CCH official who declined to be named said on Friday.

For the offer to begin, CCH still needs the approval of Greece's Capital Market Commission and the U.S. Security and Exchange Commission.

The official said the process was at an advanced stage.

In the prospectus for its listing on the London Stock Exchange published late on Thursday, CCH said the offer was expected to start later this month and end in April.

"The commencement of the acceptance period is expected on or around 19 March 2013 and is expected to expire on or around 19 April 2013," CCH said.

The firm, in which The Coca-Cola Co (KO.N) of the United States has a 23-percent stake, bottles Coke and other produce in 28 countries from Russia to Nigeria. About 95 percent of its shareholders and business activity are outside Greece.

The majority of CCH shareholders, including Coca-Cola Co. and Kar-Tess Holding, have committed to offering their shares.

Once the offer is completed, trading on the London Stock Exchange would likely start towards the end of April, CCH said.

(Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou; Editing by Mark Potter)

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