Coca-Cola HBC has announced that it may offer a special dividend to shareholders this year by either returning capital or giving out free shares.

At an annual meeting held yesterday (20 June), CCHBC said that the decision as to whether it will reward shareholders will be made shortly, adding that the outcome will be dependent upon financing needed for future expansion plans.

The Greek bottler also approved a EUR0.32 per share dividend for 2006, which is an increase of 6.6% compared to the dividend the previous year. Starting today, shares will trade ex-dividend, whilst distribution of this year's dividend will commence next month.

CCHBC, which also has operations in 28 countries across Europe and Africa, saw operating profit reach EUR569m (US$745m).

When contributions from the company's recent acquisitions were included in the figures, Coca-Cola HBC said profits rose 15%. Last year, the company bought Italian water business Fonti Del Vulture, Serbian juice group Fresh & Co. and Cypriot drinks firm Lanitis Bros.

Sales rose 16% to EUR5.4bn on the back of an 11% increase in volumes, or 13% once acquisitions were factored into the figures.