Coca-Cola Bottling Co has disappointed in reporting first-quarter results that reflect lower- than-expected sales.

Coca-Cola Bottling Co. announced it earned US$1.4m or $.16 per share for the first quarter of 2003. This compares to net income of US$3.4m or $.39 per share for the first quarter of 2002.

The company said sales were especially poor in the high margin cold drink channels. Net sales were up 1.3% reflecting a 1% increase in bottle/can volume, higher contract sales and a small decrease in average revenue per case. Volume was up 4% in our take home channels, but was down 5% in our cold drink channels.

J. Frank Harrison, III, chairman and CEO, said: "The company's financial results in the first quarter were disappointing. Our financial results reflect lower margins driven by softer than anticipated sales, particularly in our cold drink channels, higher benefit costs as well as the fixed nature of many of our operating expenses."

Harrison said: "The shift of the Easter holiday from March in 2002 to April in 2003 impacts first quarter volume comparisons, primarily in the take home channels. Severe weather led to closings of businesses in portions of our territories in the first quarter, which reduced sales in the Company's cold drink channels."

He went on: "Despite the disappointing earnings, cash flow continues to be strong as reflected by a decrease in debt and lease liabilities of more than $20 million over the past twelve months, despite the March 28, 2003 purchase of half of The Coca-Cola Company's interest in Piedmont Coca-Cola Bottling Partnership for $53.5 million."