And a warm welcome to the FTSE 100, please, for Coca-Cola HBC. No, not the makers of Coke, but one of the companies that bottles it. CCH, as we’ll call it to avoid confusion with the real thing, is based in Zug, Switzerland, is a refugee from the near-moribund Greek stock market, and its franchise is central and eastern Europe. Unsurprisingly, it hardly trades in London. Yet last week it was lodged uncomfortably in the UK’s premier index, with a market value of £6.5bn.

It’s one of the clutch of shares which have replaced, among others, the late-unlamented ENRC, the Kazak miner which demonstrated that corporate governance crumbles before a determined controlling shareholder. CCH will be different, of course. Coke itself has a big stake, and there’s no suggestion that the newcomer will fail to comply with the rules. Indeed, it comes top of the euro-pops in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, which measures economic, environmental and social performance.

A different set of rules has propelled this unlikely candidate into the index, along with Sports Direct International, whose driving force, Mike Ashley, had his own robust approach to corporate governance, but there can be no argument about whether the UK index is the logical place to put the stock.

The index trackers have to hold these stocks, and as it became clear that CCH would barge into the FTSE, traders bought in anticipation of the trackers’ forced buying in a thin market. The price did rise last month, but it seems that the tracker managers are getting smarter, using options and forward purchases to get to the required wighting rather than just piling in on the day. The price bump on entry to the index just didn’t happen.

Now the trackers are aboard, the shares will trade on the prospects. These are cleverly aligned with those of Coke itself, but don’t look exactly fizzy, even given Coke’s extraordinary global appeal. SocGen rate the the shares a sell at £18.40, on 26 times prospective earnings and a yield of 1.5 per cent on the broker’s estimate. SocGen will have to find some loose holders first, and good luck with that. Only the slaves to indexation will feel obliged to put their names on these bottle(rs).

Let’s go shopping

Tomorrow promises to be another trying day for Tesco as it reports half-time numbers which nobody expects to be much good. Last month it despatched Nomura and JP Morgan Cazenove as corporate brokers. This week, the brokers’ entirely objective analysts decided that the prospects for the shares were worse than they previously thought.

These are undoubtably tough times for the former masters of the high street universe. Like the FTSE 100 itself, Tesco shares stand at the same level today as they did in 2006, while the company’s turnover is 50 per cent bigger. Profits, on the other hand, are smaller, and if profit warnings come in threes, we haven’t quite finished yet.

However Fresh & Easy, the Leahy memorial to corporate hubris, has finally been given away, and while Tesco has yet to reveal a convincing corporate strategy, its management has plenty of ideas, from adding coffee shops and family restaurants (with non-Tesco brands) to its bloated stores, to on-line films and a cut-price tablet. In short, the management knows it’s got problems, and is not simply hoping that something will turn up, like the economy. As far as the shares are concerned, it just may be that the worst is past. Oh, and there’s the 4 per cent yield while you wait to see whether it really is.

Customer care corner

Douglas French was so cross at the charges levied on his Lloyds Bank debit card for a euro transaction that he wrote to the FT about it. Ah, the power of the press. Hardly had last Monday’s paper hit the stands, than Lloyds was on the phone, offering to refund the £46.77 he had been stung for using a sterling card to pay his E1,833 hotel bill in Germany. Since then, the bank – apparently he’s now with TSB – has changed its policy. It will still gouge its credit card holders, but in future they’ll get a more prominent warning of what’s in store. Who says the banks don’t care about their customers?

This is an updated version of my Saturday FT column, before the subs got at it.

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