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Coca-Cola moves toward bottling deals in Chicago, Central Florida

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[February 22, 2014]  BOCA RATON, Florida (Reuters)  Coca-Cola Co on Friday announced deals to sell bottling operations in Greater Chicago and Central Florida, as it slowly undoes its 2010 purchase of its North American bottler.

The world's biggest soda maker said it had signed two letters of intent with independent bottlers but did not disclose the financial terms. For the deals to take effect, the parties must reach definitive agreements this year.

Coke was expected to announce refranchising news ahead of Chief Executive Officer Muhtar Kent's presentation on Friday at the Consumer Analyst Group of New York conference in Boca Raton, Florida.

Several years ago, Coke and arch rival PepsiCo bought their North American bottlers to streamline decision-making and cut costs.

While the two companies have traditionally moved together on major changes, they are currently out of step. Coke has been open about its plan to ultimately franchise its North American bottler, while PepsiCo has not.

In April, Coca-Cola said it had signed letters of intent with five other U.S. bottlers.

(Reporting by Lisa Baertlein and Martinne Geller in Boca Raton, Florida; editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

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