ECONOMY

Index steadily closes in on 2,500 pts; HBC excels

Shares nudged up yesterday, with Coca-Cola HBC outperforming after its chief executive told Reuters in an interview the bottler was eying further expansion in the fast-growing water-bottling business. «Institutional investors were focusing today on selective blue chips, those which reported good 2003 results and others expected to announce good annual earnings in the coming days,» said portfolio manager Costas Bouropoulos at Kyklos Securities. The benchmark general share index edged up 0.42 percent to 2,483.60 euros. Bottler Coca-Cola HBC (CCHBC) was the star performer as investors cheered news of the company’s expansion plans. The stock hit a three-year high, adding 3.53 percent to 18.76 euros. CCHBC’s Chief Executive Doros Constantinou told Reuters on Tuesday that after snapping up five water bottlers in just over a year, the company wanted to expand further and may look to Italy for new opportunities. Traders said the news, on top of a more than threefold increase in 2003 net profit last week, added to the positive sentiment. Turnover fell to 144.60 million euros, with 27.11 million shares changing hands. Decliners outnumbered advancers 207 to 99, with 53 unchanged. (Reuters)