Coca-Cola HBC plans NYSE listing

Soft drinks company Coca-Cola HBC said yesterday it plans to list on the New York Stock Exchange via American Depository Receipts in the fourth quarter of the year in a move that should improve liquidity and buoy its share price. Bill Douglas, chief financial officer, told Kathimerini English Edition that the company expects an ADR listing to «improve the share price» and also encourage «higher coverage from US analysts.» Despite its superior growth prospects, Coca-Cola HBC has a valuation discount to Coca-Cola Enterprises, Schroder Salomon Smith Barney analyst Lambros Papadopoulos said in a research note. Douglas said a New York listing would also put Coca-Cola HBC in the company of its peers, most of which have primary or secondary listings in the USA. The company, the world’s second largest Coca-Cola bottler, has a primary listing on the Athens Stock Exchange and secondary listings in London and Australia. Analysts said an ADR listing in New York should attract investor interest because of Coca-Cola HBC’s high profile and good valuation. The company yesterday lifted its earnings forecast for 2002 following stronger-than-expected first-quarter results on the back of sharp growth in the emerging markets segment. Full-year EBITDA is now forecast to increase by 14-16 percent from 13-15 percent while analysts are predicting a ten- to twenty-fold increase in net profits in 2002 from 2 million euros last year, Douglas said. EBITDA in the first quarter of 2002 rose by 26 percent to 86.6 million euros, with net losses improving by 15 percent to 38.7 million euros. Group volume was up by 17 percent to 267 million unit cases and net sales revenues by 18 percent to 866 million euros. Boosted by the first-time consolidation of the Russian and Baltic operations, the emerging markets segment reported a 34-percent jump in EBITDA and a 38-percent rise in volume. The developing markets sector posted EBITDA of 4 million compared with a break-even result last year, with volume up by 5 percent. The timing of the Easter holidays boosted Italian sales and contributed to a 15-percent increase in EBITDA and a 9-percent rise in volume in the established markets segment. Coca-Cola HBC shares rose by 0.87 percent yesterday to close at 16.16 euros.