Pepsi Bottling Group, the largest bottler of Pepsi drinks, issued a mixed trading update yesterday, when it reported that volumes in the US for this quarter were flat. However the group said full year earnings and earnings for 2003 should still be in line with expectations.

Bad weather on the East Coast was in part blamed for the US volumes disappointment. Worldwide volumes are expected to grow about 1%.

Compared to analysts earnings forecasts of around 17 cents a share for the fourth quarter, the group expects earnings of between 16 cents to 18 cents per share.

Pepsi Bottling said it expects to earn $1.42 to $1.45 a share this year, in line with expectations. The company earned 95 cents per share in 2001.

For 2003, Pepsi Bottling estimates earnings of $1.68 to $1.74 a share, versus analysts' forecasts of $1.61 to $1.75.
 
The most encouraging news came from Pepsi Bottling's recent Mexican acquisition Pepsi-Gemex. The group is expecting strong growth, particularly in bottled water, from its Mexican operations in 2003. Indeed it has forecast 5% to 6% overall volume growth from Mexico next year, and 2% growth from its US operations.