UPDATE 1-Greece's biggest firm leaves, jobless rate soars

* German economic experts urge new debt restructuring

* Greece's biggest company CCH quits for Switzerland

* IMF backs giving Athens two more years to meet debt target

(Adds finance ministry official on talks)

By Harry Papachristou and Lefteris Papadimas

ATHENS, Oct 11 (Reuters) - Greece said its jobless rate hadtopped 25 percent and its biggest company announced on Thursdayit would quit the country, in a fresh blow to an economy Germanexperts warned cannot be "saved" without writing off more debt.

The announcement by drinks bottler Coca Cola Hellenic (CCH)

that it was switching its primary listing from Athensto London and moving its corporate base to stable, low-taxSwitzerland is a bitter blow to the debt-crippled nation.

The firm, which bottles Coke and other drinks in 28countries from Russia to Nigeria, is Greece's biggest by marketvalue and is 23 percent owned by The Coca-Cola Co of theUnited States. It said its Greek plants would be unaffected.

CCH's announcement coincided with data that showed Greekunemployment climbing for a 35th consecutive month in July to25.1 percent from a revised 24.8 percent in June. The joblessrate has more than tripled since the country's now five-year-oldrecession began.

Fifty-four percent of Greeks aged 15-24 years are out ofwork, fuelling violent protests against the tax hikes, spendingcuts and public sector job losses demanded by the European Unionand International Monetary Fund in exchange for more than 200billion euros ($258.03 billion) in loans since 2010.

Greece is still far off target.

IMF chief Christine Lagarde, speaking in Tokyo, backed callsto give the country two more years to meet its budget deficitreduction targets. .

Greek officials said such an extension would require anextra 11.5-12 billion euros in funding, and that even more moneymight be required because of slippage in the privatisationprocess and the deeper-than-expected recession.

The IMF is also pressing official lenders such as euro zonepaymaster Germany to take a "haircut" on their Greek debtsimilar to that swallowed by private bondholders this year.

With elections in 2013, Berlin is resisting, but Germany'sleading economic institutes warned on Thursday that withoutfurther debt restructuring the Greek economy would not make it.

"Yes, we don't think Greece can be saved," Joachim Scheide,head of forecasting at the Kiel-based IfW institute, said whenasked whether investors in Greek debt would have to acceptanother haircut.

"We need a restructuring of Greek debt. That would helpGreece best," he said.


German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was greeted with angryprotests on Tuesday on her first visit to Greece since the debtcrisis erupted, opposes any further restructuring, at leastuntil after Germans vote next September.

Her visit came with the Greek government locked in talkswith its "troika" of international lenders on more austeritymeasures to secure a next tranche of loans worth just over 31billion euros. Without further aid, Athens says it will run outof money by the end of next month.

The sides are trying to strike a deal by Oct. 18, when EUleaders are due to meet.

"We are close to a deal," a finance ministry official,speaking on condition of anonymity, said after a meeting betweentroika officials and Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras.

"We hope to have a deal by the EU summit," the officialadded, though it would still then have to pass parliament.

Data released by the finance ministry showed Greece hadnarrowed its central government budget deficit by 37 percent inthe first nine months of the year.

But the figures did not include spending on localmunicipalities and social security - the areas of most concernfor the troika, which comprises the IMF, the European Union'sexecutive Commission and the European Central Bank.

Even after steep tax hikes, net government revenue stagnatedat 36.7 billion euros, 1.3 billion euros short of an interimtarget set under the bailout plan.

Private businesses say the tax hikes are suffocating them.Coca Cola Hellenic had complained about the tax measures.

Its Greek operations, which account for five percent of itsbottling business, will be unaffected, but the move was bad newsfor a nation struggling to compete inside the euro zone.

Chief executive Dimitris Lois said the decision to switchthe company's primary listing to London and its corporate baseto Switzerland made "clear business sense".

It follows Greek dairy group FAGE's relocation to Luxembourgthis month. "This is a healthy company that does not want tosuffer from Greece's high country risk," said an analyst, whospoke on condition of anonymity.($1 = 0.7751 euros)

(Additional reporting by Karolina Tagaris, Annika Breidthardtand Michelle Martin; Writing by Matt Robinson; Editing by AndrewRoche)

((matt.robinson@thomsonreuters.com)(Reuters Messaging:matt.robinson.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

Keywords: GREECE/