COKE LOOKS FOR BUBBLING EAST BLOC MARKETPLACE

COKE LOOKS FOR BUBBLING EAST BLOC MARKETPLACE

Coca-Cola Co. intends aggressively to build "flourishing businesses" in Eastern European countries by the end of the decade, a top executive of the company said Thursday.

John Georgas, president of Coca-Cola's international soft drink operations, said in an interview the company expects to have "five or six production facilities in operation, producing and distributing inside East Germany" by year-end.Atlanta-based Coca-Cola, the world's largest soft drink maker, recently announced plans to invest $140 million in East Germany and expects quick

financial returns from its investments there.

Last year Coca-Cola made 77 percent of its profit from operations outside the United States.

Mr. Georgas, a marketing veteran who headed Coke's business in the Pacific and Western Europe before he was named to his current post a year ago, said Coca-Cola's image already iswell known among East Europeans and Soviets.

"If we were sitting here 10 years from now, I'd say we'd have flourishing businesses, barring external things like depressions in those countries," he said.

The opening of East Germany's markets represents a windfall, Mr. Georgas said, noting the company projects sales of 18 million to 20 million cases of soft drinks there next year.

Later this year and heading into 1991, "we're going to be in business in a meaningful way in East Germany," he said. "Six months ago I wouldn't have guessed in a million years we'd have sold one can."

Coca-Cola, "is in conversations in most of the markets" in Eastern Europe where it has done business for a number of years in a limited way, he said.

But Mr. Georgas said it would be years before Coke expects to make a profit from other Eastern Europe countries and the Soviet Union, which face many economic problems.

"I don't think we're going to draw our profits out of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union for quite a while."

In the Soviet Union, rival Pepsi outsells Coke. Pepsico Inc. recently signed a barter agreement aimed at doubling its business in the next decade in the Soviet Union.

But Mr. Georgas said Coke will catch its archrival. "They do have a 10- year advantage, nobody's denying that, but we're talking about minute shares of market at this time."