Coke will retain all 13 Baltic employees

  • 2000-02-03
  • By J. Michael Lyons
RIGA — Coca-Cola's planned layoff of 6,000 workers worldwide will not effect operations or workers in the Baltics, where the soft drink maker dominates the domestic market and employs about 300 workers.

Coke's new CEO Douglas Daft announced the lay-offs, the largest in the company's history, last week as part of sweeping management changes partly in response to the company's fourth-quarter 1999 losses of $45 million.

But despite losses in the Baltics, Russia, Japan and elsewhere last year due in part to regional economic pinches, Coke's bottling and corporate operations in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania will likely not be downsized.

"At the present stage the news from Atlanta will not affect the Baltics," said Coca-Cola Baltic Beverages spokeswoman Kadre Vaik.

Coke employ only 13 corporate employees in the Baltics, all in Estonia. The rest, said Vaik, work in the corporations bottling operation.

"The bottling side is not affected by the lay-offs in Atlanta or anywhere," she said.

An $813 million write-down of assets in Russia, the Baltics, Japan and other markets led to Coke's fourth-quarter loss last year.

In the company's Atlanta headquarters, Coke executives said the job cuts will save the company about $300 million a year.

"We are currently in a period of economic recovery in many parts of the world," Daft, who was on the job 45 days when he announced the downsizing, told The New York Times.

The job cuts will affect about 20 percent of the company's workforce.

About 2,500 job cuts will occur in Atlanta while the rest will be at operations abroad. Coke currently sells in about 200 countries.

Coca-Cola had a rough year in Europe. The company recalled millions of bottles of Coke, Fanta and Sprite after rumors of contamination and scraps with government regulators attempting to tame the world's largest soft drink manufacturer.

Though Coke dominates the soft drink market in the Baltics, Pepsi Co. is starting to make a push. Estimates put Pepsi's market share at about 10 percent.

Brooke Donald also reported for this story.