* World's No. 2 Coke drinks bottler to seek main Londonlisting
* Coca Cola Hellenic is Greece's biggest firm by marketvalue
* Legal base will move to Switzerland, losing "Hellenic"name
* Plans to maintain plants in Greece but most activityabroad
(Adds detail on tax, boycott call, details)
By Harry Papachristou
ATHENS, Oct 11 (Reuters) - Greece's biggest company, CocaCola Hellenic, is leaving the country, the drinks bottler saidon Thursday as its move to Switzerland and a London listing forits shares dealt a blow to the crippled Greek economy.
The immediate material impact on Greece is limited - itsGreek plants stay open and CCH
said the small portionof it activity that the world's second-ranked Coke bottler hasin Greece will be unaffected. But analysts quickly saw it as badnews for a nation struggling to compete inside the euro zone.
CCH, which has said it fears the Greek crisis could disruptits multinational business, said in a bourse filing in Athensthat shareholders, most of whom are abroad, will exchange theirstock for shares in Coca Cola HBC AG, based in Switzerland andeffectively shorn of the Greek tag "Hellenic".
That stock will be primarily quoted on London's LSE.
"A primary listing on Europe's biggest and most liquid stockexchange reflects better the international character of CocaCola Hellenic's business activities and shareholder base," thecompany said in its regulatory statement.
The firm, in which The Coca-Cola Co
of the UnitedStates has a 23-percent stake, bottles Coke and other produce in28 countries from Russia to Nigeria. About 95 percent of itsshareholders and business activity are outside Greece.
"This transaction makes clear business sense," chiefexecutive Dimitris Lois told analysts in a conference call. Anoverwhelming majority of shareholders have already acceptedmoving a company which has long complained about Greek taxes.
Analyst Manos Hatzidakis of Beta Securities in Athens saidthat the move made sense for the firm, which follows Greek dairygroup FAGE this month in seeking a low-tax, low-volatility havenfor its corporate base - in FAGE's case Luxembourg.
"The Greek bourse is losing a very good company and theLondon Stock Exchange is gaining a very important group," saidHatzidakis. "It's very bad news for the Greek economy andbourse."
For brokers on the stock exchange, losing a stock that madeup 8 percent of daily turnover this year will be unwelcome -especially since total volumes are down by half since last year.
For the Greek treasury, the loss of tax revenue is unclear.Though CCH officials did not detail tax savings from moving theregistered office to Switzerland, it has complained of high -and increasingly unpredictable - taxation in crisis-hit Athens.
But the move may further discourage investment in Greece.
Trade unionists saw the corporate exodus as immoral and one,Stathis Anestis, spokesman for the biggest labour group GSEE,suggested a boycott of Coke : "This is unacceptable," he said.
"CCH and FAGE are speculating at the most crucial moment forthe Greek economy and the Greek people. Consumers should usetheir power to punish these companies."
One analyst said CCH, which rose to the top of corporaterankings as the values of Greek banks collapsed, was out to ridits share price of such risks associated with Greece; thecountry is mired in recession and facing mass discontent as itsleaders slash budgets to meet international creditors' terms forloans intended to keep Athens inside Europe's single currency.
"This is a healthy company that does not want to suffer fromGreece's high country risk," said the analyst, who spoke oncondition of anonymity.
Foreign investors have been steadily reducing theirinvestment in the Athens Stock Exchange
since the countrywas engulfed by the sovereign debt crisis in 2009. Greece'sfuture in the 17-nation euro zone still remains in doubt.
Aided by the fact that it is doing most of its businessoutside Greece, CCH consistently outperformed the general Athensstock market index, which has slumped to 20-year lows.
CCH has become the country's biggest firm by market valuewith a capitalisation of around 6 billion euros ($7.7 billion),representing about a fifth of the Athens bourse's total.
The company, which last year made net profit of 330 millioneuros on sales of 6.85 billion, has complained of taxes imposedunder Greek government austerity measures. A U.S. filing showsit paid about 20 million euros in both 2009 and 2010 for one-off"social responsibility" levies in Greece.
Profits at operating units in other countries are generallytaxed locally. The Greek parent company reported 32 millioneuros in Greek taxes in 2010 and none last year. New withholdingtax on dividends in Greece might have affected CCH in future.
In its U.S. filing for 2011, the company said: "Greece,which accounted for approximately 6 percent of our unit casesales volume and approximately 8 percent of our net salesrevenue in 2011, is currently facing a severe economic crisisresulting from significant government fiscal deficits and highlevels of government borrowing."
"The ... Greek government debt crisis may have impacts onour liquidity that currently cannot be predicted."
CCH said it would delist from the Athens Stock Exchange andthen seek to re-enter that bourse with a secondary listing.
Coca Cola Hellenic shares closed down 4.9 percent at 15.66euros in Athens. Analysts explained the drop by the low cashprice of 13.58 euros the company is offering to thoseshareholders who refuse the offer of new Swiss shares.($1 = 0.7751 euros)
(Additional reporting by Lefteris Papadimas, Matt Robinson andRenee Maltezou in Athens and Tom Bergin in London; Writing byAlastair Macdonald)
((harry.Papachristou@thomsonreuters.com)(+30 210 33 76 455 or+30 6949 440 106)(Reuters Messaging:firstname.lastname@example.org@reuters.net))
((BREAKINGVIEWS-Greek Coke bottler may find life sweeter in FTSE
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