[ATLANTA] Billionaire investor Warren Buffett, Coca- Cola's top shareholder, appeared at the company's annual meeting to offer a shot of happiness in a tough period for the world's largest soda maker.
Buffett told Chief Executive Officer Muhtar Kent that he believes in the company, its products and its ability to adjust to consumer tastes. Mr Kent has been criticised by another investor, David Winters, who says Kent pays himself too much and has had a lacklustre response to slowing global sales.
"We have got the product that's been proven since 1886," Mr Buffett said during the on-stage interview Wednesday, which followed a video in which he played the ukulele.
Mr Kent has said 2015 is a transition year after Coca-Cola forecast earnings growth that's slower than its long-term targets. The shares slid 3.4 per cent this year through yesterday, a steeper drop than rival PepsiCo Inc's 0.1 per cent dip. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index gained 2.7 per cent in that period.
Mr Buffett said Coca-Cola will be fine as long as it listens to consumers. He also countered claims that the company's products are unhealthy.
"One-quarter of all the calories I've consumed come from Coca-Cola, and I tell you I feel healthy," Mr Buffett said.