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John Ustas to head Coca Cola's India bottling operations

Last updated on: July 02, 2005 12:51 IST

US coke giant Coca Cola on Saturday  appointed John Ustas as CEO of its bottling operations in its Indian subsidiary amid reports that the company's India president Sanjeev Gupta may quit in protest.

According to an announcement by the Atlanta-based company, Ustas has been given charge of the company-owned bottling operations (CBO) in India effective from July 1.

Ustas will replace Vipul Sourabh who will work with John "over the next several months to ensure a smooth transition," the announcement said.

Following the transition, Sourabh will move to another assignment within Coke's international bottling system.

When contacted Gupta told PTI, "as of now I have not resigned and I cannot comment about the future." Sources in the know, however, say that Gupta might put in his papers any day owing to differences with the new management and its future business strategies.

Coca Cola India division comprises India, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and franchisees as well as bottling operations in India.

Before taking his new assignment, Ustas was the managing director of Coca Cola Drikker AS, the company's Norway bottling operations. Ustas will report directly to Steve Buffington, regional director of Latin America and Asia for Bottling Investment, the announcement said.

"This move will help strengthen our management team in India and appropriately position us to capture a new level of success in one of our most important long-term growth markets," the company said.

However, Gupta is apparently unhappy with the top-level management changes and is considering quitting the company.

Gupta, 44, had joined Coca Cola in 1997 as its marketing head. He took over as CEO in July 2003, becoming only the second Indian to head Coca-Cola in India. The first was American-Indian Jaidev Raja.

Gupta, as Coca-Cola India president, handled both the bottling and the marketing operations of the beverage giant. Of the 50-odd Coke bottling plants in the country, 24 are company-owned, while the rest are owned by franchisees.

Coca-Cola's bottling operations are handled by its 51 per cent subsidiary Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages.

BS Corporate Bureau in Mumbai
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