The world's largest soft drinks bottler Coca-Cola Enterprises has seen new products and price rises help turn in a strong increase in profits for the fourth quarter, helping the company beat expectations for the full year.

The success of Vanilla Coke was partly attributed to the success but so were price increases of 3.5% in the quarter.

The company said 2002 net income totalled $1.07 per diluted common share, or US$491m, as operating income grew 23% versus comparable 2001 results to US$1.36 billion.

"The favourable results we achieved in 2002 reflect our success in managing all aspects of our business," said Lowry F. Kline, chairman and chief executive officer. "With product and package innovation and excellent local marketing and execution, we've grown volume and added even more depth to our brand portfolio. Importantly, we achieved this while closely managing our costs to make our operations as efficient as possible.

"In 2003, our challenge remains the same: operating efficiently and succeeding in the marketplace with strong, growing brands and effective pricing initiatives. We remain confident in our ability to successfully manage this equation and deliver solid earnings growth this year, including a stronger return on invested capital," Kline said.

In the fourth quarter, CCE's revenue was US$4.25 billion, up 8 percent. Net income was US$77m, or 17 cents a share.

One analyst called the fourth quarter, CCE's best in several years.

The company said it expects US volume growth of 3% in 2003 and 4 to 6% in Europe. The company expects earnings per share of US$1.15 to US$1.22 for the year.