Coca-Cola Hellenic sees profits drop in first half of 2012

Coca-Cola Hellenic the world’s second-largest bottler of Coca-Cola Co. soft drinks, shed 25 percent of profit in the first half as expected, hurt by austerity in debt-laden Italy, Ireland and Greece and higher commodity costs.

The Athens-based company, with operations in 27 countries including Russia and Nigeria, said comparable net income was 109 million euros (85.4 million pounds), against the average of 110.1 million forecast in a Reuters poll of analysts.

Volumes dropped by 2 percent year-on-year to 1.01 billion cases while sales rose 1 percent to 3.43 billion euros, compared with analysts’ forecast of 3.42 billion.

The company said it maintained or increased its market volume share in sparkling beverages in most of its markets, including Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Russia, Ukraine, Romania and Bulgaria.

“We continued to win in the market place, while operating in an increasingly volatile and challenging external environment,» the company’s chief executive Dimitris Lois said in a statement.

He said that a likely easing of raw material costs in the second half would be offset by unfavourable exchange rates.

The company reiterated its guidance for free cash flow generation and investments of 1.45 billion euros in the 2012-2014 period.