Coca-Cola HBC sees earnings rise

Greek bottler Coca-Cola HBC (CCHBC) raised its 2005 earnings per share (EPS) and volume growth targets yesterday after meeting expectations with robust first-half results boosted by strong volume growth. The company, the world’s second-largest bottler of Coca-Cola products by sales and 24-percent owned by Coca-Cola Co, raised its 2005 forecast for earnings per share to 1.28-1.30 euros from 1.18-1.21 euros. First-half EPS was 0.65 euro. It increased its forecast for volume growth to 10 percent from 6 percent and raised its earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) forecast to about 12 percent from 8 to 9 percent, citing the impact of recent acquisitions in Russia, Serbia and Bulgaria. «The recently acquired businesses of Multon in Russia, Vlasinka in Serbia and Bankya in Bulgaria are expected to contribute approximately 2.5 percent to volume growth, approximately 3 percent to EBIT growth and 0.06 euro to EPS in 2005,» CCHBC said in a statement. Broker P&K Securities kept its «outperform» rating on the stock. «CCHBC announced positive first-half results due to robust organic growth, favorable currency differences and supply chain efficiencies which offset a part of the increase in raw material costs,» P&K Securities said in a review. Robust growth «The operating performance of the company had been satisfactory in volume terms in all markets and in line in profitability terms,» a second broker, National Securities, wrote in a note. «In our view, the success of the quarter had been strong volume growth delivered,» it added. CCHBC said first-half net profit rose to 154 million euros, broadly in line with an average forecast of 149.75 million euros in a Reuters poll of 12 analysts. Net profit in the second quarter, usually one of the best quarters of the year, increased to 141 million euros compared with a first-quarter net profit of 13.2 million euros. «Our performance during the second quarter was characterized by robust organic volume growth and the successful execution of our innovation plans,» Chief Executive Doros Constantinou said in a statement. First-half group earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) increased 8 percent to 393.8 million euros. Group sales volume rose 11 percent to 755.4 million unit cases and net sales revenues climbed 10 percent to 2.29 billion euros.

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