Crazy! FOUR different owners for award-winning finance boss

It has been a tumultuous year for Walter Leonhardt, the award-winning finance director of the company that bottles and distributes Coca-Cola and many other popular drinks. When he won two of the most coveted prizes at the 2016 CFO Awards he worked for Coca-Cola bottler ABI. Since then, ownership has changed from SABMiller to AB Inbev, with The Coca-Cola Company itself soon becoming the third majority owner – with a sale to a fourth party on the cards.

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Earlier this year, ABI merged with various other bottlers in Southern and East Africa to form one large bottling operation. According to Muhtar Kent, chairman and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company, this is a great development for the continent. Kent said:

"A combined Coca-Cola bottling operation is further evidence of our commitment to Africa, and our firm belief in the tremendous growth prospects that the continent offers. As one of the top 10 largest Coca-Cola bottling partners worldwide, Coca-Cola Beverages Africa can leverage the scale, resources, capability and efficiency needed to accelerate Coca-Cola growth and contribute to the economic and social prosperity of African communities."

Positive as it may be, for Walter and his finance team, 2016 has been a year of extreme turmoil. This is a breakdown of the roller-coaster ride thus far:

  • When Walter came on stage in Johannesburg in May to receive his awards at the CFO Awards 2016, he still worked for ABI, the Coca-Cola bottler that was fully owned by SABMiller and was servicing Gauteng, KZN and parts of Free State and North West (57 percent of the SA market).
  • In July 2016, SABMiller merged its bottling operations in Africa with Coca-Cola and local bottler SABCO, majority-owned by the Gutsche family. This process took over 18 months, due to protracted discussions with the South African government and competition authorities.
  • The new entity is called Coca-Cola Beverages Africa and Walter became financial director of its South African operations, Coca-Cola Beverages South Africa. Besides Coca-Cola, it bottles many favourite drinks, like Fanta, Sprite, Appletiser, Valpré and Monster.
  • In October, SABMiller was eventually bought by AB InBev, the new majority owner of Coca-Cola Beverages Africa.
  • After the SABMiller take-over, The Coca-Cola Company immediately exercised its right acquire the bottling operations from AB InBev, given the 'change of control' clause that had been part of the bottling agreement. This means Coca-Cola is now in discussions with AB InBev about the purchase price of the majority shares of CCBA.
  • Analysts expect that The Coca-Cola Company is already looking for a new company to sell its African bottling license to - possibly as soon as the talks with AB Inbev have been concluded.