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Thursday, February 25, 2010 - 7:55am

Coke Deal A Strategy Shift

Coca-Cola Inc. plans to acquire the North American operations of its largest bottler and will give up its own bottling operations in Sweden and Norway.

The cashless deal calls for Atlanta-based Coca-Cola to give up its 34 percent stake in Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc., worth $3.4 billion, and assume $8.88 billion in debt. Coca-Cola will also sell the Norwegian and Swedish operations to Coca-Cola Enterprises for $822 million.

The move mirrors deals by rival PepsiCo announced in August to its two biggest bottlers for $7.8 billion.

Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are trying to save costs and gain flexibility to respond to changing tastes. Soda sales have suffered in the U.S. as more people have switched to juices and teas.