The Coca-Cola Co to greenlight Anheuser-Busch InBev as Africa partner - analyst

The Coca-Cola Co is likely to accept Anheuser-Busch InBev as its African bottling partner after the brewer's takeover of SABMiller, an analyst has said.

AB InBev is on course to inherit SABMiller's share in Coca-Cola Beverages Africa (CCBA), an Africa-wide bottler announced in late-2014, through its US$107bn takeover. However, Coca-Cola has change-of-control clauses that would allow it to buy back SABMiller's soft drinks assets or sell them to someone else.

Stifel's Mark Swartzberg said today a buy back is unlikely to happen and Coca-Cola's CEO will "greenlight AB InBev as a major new bottling partner". Swartzberg said the move would be consistent with Coca-Cola's actions to reduce its "asset intensity" as opposed to buying SABMiller's CCBA stake for an estimated US$4bn.

Coca-Cola is expected to announce its decision on the CCBA stake before the end of the second quarter, Swartzberg said.

Coca-Cola has been reducing its bottler footprint over the past few years. In the US, it is re-franchising its bottler network, while in Germany it merged with Coca-Cola Enterprises and Coca-Cola Iberian Partners to form Coca-Cola European Partners.

CCBA is still waiting to be formed, however it moved a step closer last month after South Africa's competition commission recommended the conditional approval of the merger in the country.