Soft drinks bottler Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Co has reported a 93% dive in first quarter net profits, due to unfavourable currency rates, lower consumer spend and restructuring charges.

Net profits fell to EUR1.9m (US$2.5m) for the three months to the end of March, compared to EUR28m in the same period of last year, Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Co (CCHBC) said today (7 May).

Excluding restructuring charges during the quarter, profits fell by 74% to EUR7.2m. Net sales for the quarter were flat against last year, at EUR1.37bn, while volume sales rose by 3%.

Volumes were boosted by the extra contribution of Italian soft drinks bottler Socib, acquired by CCHBC in December. Volumes in Russia, however, fell by 15% in the quarter.

The Greece-based soft drinks bottler blamed the earnings fall on a decline in income from operations, which fell 38%, excluding charges.

"Despite successful price increases and volume growth, ongoing currency pressure and adverse channel mix resulted in an operating margin decline of 185 basis points for the first quarter of 2009 versus the comparable prior year period," said the group.

Net sales per unit case dropped by 3% for the quarter, it added.

Going forward, CCHBC said that it would continue to focus on cost savings and is targeting operating cost savings of EUR100m in 2009.

The bottler has cut 4,500 jobs since the end of the second quarter of 2008. "In addition, decreased capital expenditure and improved management of working capital contributed to the company generating a free cash flow improvement of EUR68m in the first quarter of 2009," it said.

Restructuring initiatives are expected to save the group between EUR15m and EUR20m this year, and then EUR25m to EUR30m annually from 2010.