Greek Coke bottler Q3 net seen up 22 pct

Greek bottler Coca-Cola HBC (CCHBC) is expected to post a 22 percent rise in third-quarter net profit thanks to the success of a new low-calorie drink and growth in emerging markets, a Reuters poll showed yesterday. The poll of eight analysts produced an average net profit forecast of 204.28 million euros for the third quarter, traditionally CCHBC’s strongest, up from -167.1 million in the same period in 2006. Sales volume in the quarter is seen up 10.7 percent to 577.6 million unit cases on the better-than-expected performance of CCHBC’s new low-fat drink Coke Zero and double-digit percentage growth in Russia, Nigeria and Eastern Europe. CCBHC launched Coke Zero in Ireland, Northern Ireland, Greece, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Croatia and Romania earlier in the year. «A strong trend in Coca-Cola Zero and continuous initiatives in product mix and distribution are all seen as catalysts for sustainable third-quarter growth,» Marfin Analysis said in a preview note. CCHBC, with operations in 28 countries in Europe and Africa, is targeting earnings per share (EPS) of -1.85 to -1.88 and 11 to 13 percent volume growth for the full year. The stock trades about 22 times estimated 2007 earnings, compared with a multiple of 19 for Coca-Cola Enterprises, the world’s largest bottler of Coke drinks, and about 21 for Australia-based Coca-Cola Amatil. The shares have gained about 41 percent since the start of the year on expectations of an upgrade in long-term growth and a capital return. The company will report next Tuesday. (Reuters)