Despite a slowdown in North American volumes late in the quarter, Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc, the world's largest bottler of soft drinks, today reported second-quarter 2003 net income of US$259m, or 56 cents a share, which included a two-cent per share tax-related gain. That compared with US$214m, or 47 cents a share, in the same period last year.

Operating income totalled US$528m for the second quarter, an increase of 7% versus second-quarter 2002 results. The company said 2003 operating income results reflect strong growth in our European operations with North American operating income impacted by lower volume growth and higher operating expenses.

"Our second-quarter financial performance benefited from our commitment to improved pricing in both North America and Europe, even as our North American volume growth slowed late in the quarter," said Lowry F. Kline, chairman and chief executive officer. "Consistent improvement in the pricing of our products is the cornerstone of our ability to generate improved operating results over time, and our commitment to price realization remains unchanged.

"We continue to expect full-year earnings per share in our original targeted range as we benefit from continued price realization, favorable interest rates and the operational and currency benefits of our European territories," Kline said.

Second-quarter 2003 consolidated net pricing per case increased 2.5% with growth in North America of 2.5% and an increase in Europe of 2%.

"While our second-quarter results do not reflect the balanced volume and pricing growth we had planned, our results clearly demonstrate that we are committed to price enhancement," said John R. Alm, president and chief operating officer. "We are confident that volume growth will resume as the overall retail environment improves and our brands benefit from our consistent marketplace execution, strong local marketing programs, and our system's focus on continued brand innovation."

"In Europe, we again achieved outstanding results, with a strong balance of volume and pricing growth," Alm said. "Strong growth from new cola introductions, such as Vanilla Coke and diet Coke with Lemon, and the outstanding work of our European team in support of our customers are continuing to expand the soft drink business in our European territories."