Departing Coke boss says Kiwis are immature about profits

The departing boss of Coca-Cola in New Zealand is leaving disappointed that companies are not appreciated for making money but says the country has been a great place to do business and live in.

George Adams is moving back to Europe after serving nine years as managing director of Coca-Cola Amatil NZ and Fiji. Irishman Barry O'Connell, who runs the company's Austrian and Slovenian business, arrives in April to take over the role.

The company has about 55 percent of the non-alcoholic ready-to-drink market in New Zealand, where it competes with Frucor and supermarket brands. It employs 1100 people and makes a 20 percent return on capital.

"I absolutely loved New Zealand. But I think there is a degree of possibly immaturity in relation to our relationship with the need to be profitable," Mr Adams says.

"I'm not sure that people really understand that companies must make profits in order to reinvest." 

Mr Adams, who has overseen $300 million worth of new capital investment in New Zealand, much of it in expanding its Christchurch operations, says there was a suspicion here than anything a company did was undermined by the profit motive.

"I'd like to see companies really being celebrated for being profitable," he told BusinessDesk.

"It's a good thing for investment, it is a good thing for employment and it is a good thing for our superannuation funds." Superannuation groups invest in companies to fund pensions.

"What I'd like to see potentially is reframing the discussion around the fact that actually companies must be profitable and it is a good thing."

A dislike of big business in this country was possibly connected to foreign ownership, but Fonterra had a pretty tough time.

Still, New Zealand was a great place to do business, he says.

"Honestly, I think we are a phenomenally attractive location to do business. The number of times I have done business with some of my biggest and best customers on the basis of handshakes leaves me extremely proud of the relationships that we have here." 

(BusinessDesk)

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4 Comments & Questions

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Hear, hear. NZers need to start celebrating success. Goodness, it is definitely wrong to call a complaining Englishman a whingeing Pom when you listen to NZers led by the Greens and Labour.

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It would be wrong to call him a Pom of any kind, whingeing or otherwise. He's Irish.

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It's the product, George, that is the problem. You make billions, we wear the health costs of an addictive, non-nutritional substance which is abused by the "screen" generations.

Then there's the small matter of how much/little large corporates pay in taxes in this country.

You don't pay your way and you cost us a fortune in life chances and health costs.

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I don't think New Zealanders are anti-big business. I think they are more selective about who they choose to support. I'd work for Google, but not for Monsanto, etc.

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