Frigoglass sees 2007 sales up 9 percent as expansion continues

Frigoglass, the world’s largest maker of beverage refrigeration equipment, expects sales to grow by 9 percent this year as it expands in Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia, the firm’s chief executive said yesterday. Frigoglass supplies brewers, including Heineken and SABMiller, and Greek Coke bottler Coca-Cola HBC. It has gained about a 13 percent share of the -1.7 billion global cooler market. «We expect to close the year at the upper end of our guidance, which means a 9 percent rise in sales,» Frigoglass Managing Director Petros Diamantides told Reuters in an interview. Diamantides said Frigoglass expected to record sales of -437 million this year thanks to higher beer consumption in Eastern Europe as competition among brewers making beer more immediately available at points of sale. «We will be in a position to cover any single-digit rise in raw materials by savings through efficiency and productivity,» he said. Frigoglass, with operations in Europe, Africa and Asia, recently built a new plant in China as it seeks to take advantage of the country’s fast-expanding economy. The plant, which will start full operations in November after a two-month pilot period, is expected to become profitable in five years. «We expect to break even in 2010, while the investment cost will be covered in about seven years from this year,» Diamantides said. Frigoglass’s medium-term plans include expansion in Central and North America along with a further strengthening of its presence in the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region. «America is certainly an attractive market for us due to its enormous size and we are examining several ways to make our entry,» Diamantides said. The firm was more likely to proceed with acquisitions instead of setting up its own units in the region, he said. Frigoglass shares trade at about 18 times estimated 2007 earnings, in line with United Technologies Corp, according to Reuters Estimates. The stock is up 21 percent since the start of the year, outperforming the Athens general index which has gained 7.5 percent. Analysts attribute the outperformance to the company’s positive growth prospects. (Reuters)