THE DISTILLERY: Chief refreshment

Jotters speculate on what's next for Coca-Cola, with one hinting Terry Davis's time as CEO could be fizzling out.

Coca-Cola Amatil’s full year numbers might have missed analyst expectations, but the market didn’t care. In fact the stock bounced. Australian business commentators are predictably focusing on veteran CCA boss Terry Davis and his plans to reclaim a share of the beer market for the bottling company.

The Australian Financial Review’s Sue Mitchell says Davis’s experience lends itself to the saying that good things come to those who wait.

"If Kirin, Asahi or Suntory decide to quit Australia, Davis says CCA will be ready to pounce.”

But Fairfax’s Adele Ferguson says the Coca-Cola boss mightn’t even be the guy to oversee the company by the time the beer distribution comes back online.

"Speculation is rife that the country's biggest soft drink bottler, Coca-Cola Amatil, will have a new boss by the end of the year. The talk is that Terry Davis, 54, who has been in the top job for more than 11 years – and is one of the country's longest serving chief executives – is close to calling time. His most likely successor is tipped to be Warwick White, the head of the Australasian business, who has spent more than 28 years in the global Coca-Cola system.”

The Australian’s John Durie explains how Davis is increasingly concerned about the influence of the supermarkets – perhaps if a distributor as powerful as CCA is concerned about this, then the consumer watchdog’s investigation into the matter has something to it.

"The two, it should be noted, are not the same thing and run counter to the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission's concerns that maybe the big supermarkets are treating some customers unfairly. Davis has spent up big to control the so-called route market – small stores, where people pay top dollar for his product rather than get the big bottle on offer at the supermarkets. He owns more than 65 per cent of the fridges in Australia. CCA is big enough to handle itself, but the way Davis sees it competition in the supermarket space has increased markedly with the likes of Aldi and Costco helping to drive the private label push.”

The other big results out from yesterday were the Arrium numbers. Business Spectator’s Stephen Bartholomeusz says the market is finally starting to see the difference between Arrium and OneSteel.

"Plummer’s strategy for avoiding the fate that almost overwhelmed OneSteel’s former BHP Steel sibling, BlueScope, has been to diversify away from steel manufacturing and distribution into iron ore mining and mining consumables. The financial and social cost of exiting steel making and shutting down the Whyalla blast furnace and steel-making facilities (and remediating the site) was too prohibitive, so Plummer’s ambition there was to at least get the cost bases in those businesses down to the point where they were cash positive. Had it not been for the plunge in iron ore prices last September to $US87 a tonne just as Arrium was ramping up its iron ore production and shipments, and the continuing strength of the Australian dollar, the results of that strategy and the quality of its execution would have been far more evident.”

Fairfax’s Malcolm Maiden of course reminds everyone the context with which most investors are interpreting the results.

"Steel maker, iron ore miner and mining hardware supplier Arrium didn't shoot the lights out with its December-half profit result, but it was good enough to confirm that chairman Peter Smedley was right on the money a few months ago when he binned a takeover offer from South Korea's Posco group and the Hong Kong-based commodities house Noble.”

Fairfax’s Ross Gittins runs through the cost of punishment in the criminal justice system, which is a cost, not a benefit.

In other company news, The Australian’s Bryan Frith says APN News & Media is now essentially rudderless – it’s been two steps forward and three steps back.

The Australian Financial Review’s Chanticleer columnist Tony Boyd says the same forces that put Rio Tinto iron ore boss Sam Walsh in the chief’s seat apply to BHP Billiton.

"The powers that be at BHP Billiton will shudder when they hear this, but chairman Jac Nasser ought to follow the lead of his rival at Rio Tinto, Jan du Plessis, and replace chief executive Marius Kloppers with a proven operational guy.”

In politics, The Australian Financial Review’s economics editor Alan Mitchell says Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s jobs plan is more of a manufacturing jobs plan.

The Herald Sun’s Terry McCrann runs through the potential changes at the top of the Reserve Bank of Australia and the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority in the context of who is Treasurer, which is currently Wayne Swan, could be a Kevin Rudd appointee and will in all likelihood be Joe Hockey by the end of September.

And finally, Fairfax’s Michael Pascoe argues that Employment Minister Bill Shorten’s definition of dumping, which his side of politics is getting uppity about at the moment, would include Holden’s practice of selling re-badged Commodores for $10,000 less than in Australia.

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