The world's leading supplier of own label soft drinks, Canadian group, Cott Corp., reported a 42% rise in operating income to C$18.4m for the first quarter of the 2002 fiscal year. However, the company posted an overall loss of $46.8m largely as a result of a non-cash charge of C$44.8m related to goodwill charges on its UK business.

The company also raised its estimates for 2002. "We've established momentum and our major business segments, including recent acquisitions, are fuelling growth," said Cott chairman and chief executive Frank Weise. Weise said Cott expects to earn between 72 cents and 74 cents a share this year, excluding one-time charges, compared with its previous range of between 70 cents and 72 cents a share.
 
The C$46.8m loss for the first quarter compares with a profit of C$5.1m in the first-quarter of 2001. But on an operating basis, the company beat analysts' expectations of earnings of 8 cents to 10 cents a share. Sales rose by 9% to C$250m from C$229m, having been forecast to rise by between 8% and 10%.

Cott's activities in the UK and other international markets recorded a 16% rise in turnover while sales in the US, the company's largest market, saw an 11% rise.