A strong performance in the first half, with profit and volume growth, has allowed Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling to raise its full year forecasts.

The Greek-based soft drink bottler said today (9 August) that volumes reached 970m unit cases in the first half, 16% up on the same period a year earlier. CCHBC also reported solid progress in operating profit (EBIT) to EUR331m (US$454.4m), 19% above prior year, on a comparable basis.

Net profit reached EUR222m, 16% above last year's first half and earnings per share grew to EUR0.92, 15% above prior year.

Doros Constantinou, managing director of Coca-Cola HBC, said: "We are pleased to report another strong quarter of robust volume growth and operating margin expansion, despite higher raw material costs and additional investment in our sales capabilities in the established markets. Based on the strong momentum we have seen in the first half of the year, we are confident in our prospects for the balance of the year and accordingly, are raising our full year guidance.

"The second quarter also marked improved and sustainable margin expansion in the developing markets, continued strong profitability in Bulgaria and Romania post EU accession as well as further investments in Russian production capacity to further extend our market leadership in this high growth market."

CCHBC said that the successful launch of Coca-Cola Zero in eight of its markets bolstered the overall growth in trademark Coca-Cola to 10% in the six-month period.

The company said that, despite higher raw material costs and investments behind its route-to-market initiatives, it was now positioned ahead of its mid-year plans. Furthermore, CCHBC added that it still expects raw material cost pressures to moderate in the second half of the year.

"Our innovation plans are being successfully rolled out and our market place execution capability is driving strong performance of our expanded beverage portfolio. In addition, our three strategic initiatives - route-to-market, customer-centric capabilities and working capital management - are driving continuous improvements to further strengthen our business. As a result we are raising our 2007 financial targets, on a comparable basis," a statement said.

Volume growth is now expected to be in the region of 11-13% (from the previous 7-8%). EBIT growth is estimated to fall between 18-20% for the full year, compared to previous estimates of 11-13%.