ECONOMY

CCHBC’s soaring profits

Coca-Cola HBC’s focus on profitable volume growth, a tight leash on costs and expansion into the non-carbonated soft drink market last year paid off as it lifted net profits to 35.3 million euros from 1.6 million euros in 2001. Irial Finan, managing director, said the Coca-Cola bottler posted «strong volume growth despite challenging conditions» and that «earnings growth reflects our ability to effectively leverage scale, manage revenue and costs.» Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization increased by 17 percent to 578.7 million euros on the back of a 17 percent jump in volume to 1,268 million euros. Finan said carbonated soft drinks, the company’s mainstay, will continue to drive growth at the same time as it moves to strengthen its non-carbonated soft drink portfolio with acquisitions. «We aim to capture opportunities in non-carbonated soft drinks by expanding the portfolio and via an acquisition strategy,» he said. CCHBC last year took over Romanian mineral water company Dorna and Valser, a Swiss mineral water bottler, with the Coca-Cola Company, its US parent. It also opened a mineral water bottling plant in Hungary. Carbonated soft drinks accounted for 85 percent of volume last year, with non-carbonated soft drinks making up the remaining 15 percent. The split in 2004 is projected at 80:20. The greater focus on non-carbonated soft drinks underlined CCHBC’s dominant market share in the sector, an estimated 53 percent, against a 37 percent market share in carbonated soft drinks. The company is aiming for total volume growth of 7-9 percent, EBITDA increase of 11-13 percent and EBIT growth of 25-30 percent this year. Capital expenditure is set at 335-350 million euros.