Coca-Cola company plans appeal against fine

Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling (CCHBC) said yesterday it plans to appeal against a hefty fine imposed by Greece’s competition committee last month while stressing that the penalty is not expected to affect this year’s results. Irial Finan, CCHBC managing director, said the company has not reached a decision yet but will in all likelihood appeal to the committee in the next 20 days regarding the fine. He said the fines «won’t have an impact» on this year’s results. The competition watchdog levied a fine of 2.93 million euros against the company, the largest ever, last month, saying that CCHBC had abused its prominent market position. The sum was equivalent to 0.59 percent of the company’s turnover in Greece. CCHBC also faces a daily fine of 5,869 euros should it fail to do away with the exclusivity clause imposed on refrigerators that it offers to retailers within a month. Finan said the company notched up «considerable progress last year» as it posted pretax profits of 1.6 million euros against a pro-forma loss of 46 million euros in 2000 while earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) improved by 18 percent to 492.6 million euros based on International Accounting Standards. Sales volume went up by 8 percent, including newly acquired bottling operations in Russia. The developed market segment reported a 3-percent rise in sales volume and a 3-percent fall in EBITDA. The developing markets section had a 3-percent drop in sales volume against a 3-percent increase in EBITDA. The emerging markets division posted a stellar performance, lifting sales volume by 25 percent and EBITDA by 62 percent. Finan said the company expects «more consistent growth in all segments this year,» suggesting that the meteoric growth in the emerging markets could slow down. He said goals for this year include a 6-8 percent rise in volume in all markets, a 13-15 percent increase in consolidated EBITDA and return on tangible assets of 15-20 percent. CCHBC will propose a dividend of 18 cents to shareholders at the annual general meeting in May. The company is the world’s second largest Coke bottler. CCHBC’s shares closed at 15.66 euros yesterday, up 0.77 percent.

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