Minneapolis-based Pepsi bottler, PepsiAmericas Inc, reported a US$62m loss in the fourth quarter with charges relating to environmental liabilities offsetting an increase in turnover.

In the corresponding period last year, the company reported a net profit of $1.8 million. Sales for the fourth quarter were up by 19% to $761.4 million.

Excluding pre-tax charges of $120m, PepsiAmericas recorded a profit of 10 cents per share for the quarter, the same as a year earlier and broadly in line with analysts' forecasts. The company forecasts a 1.5% to 2% rise in domestic volumes during the coming year with international volumes set to increase by 4% to 6%.

"We experienced an improvement in both volume and pricing in the US in the fourth quarter, as compared to fourth quarter 2000," said Robert C. Pohlad, chairman and chief executive officer of PepsiAmericas.

"Continuing the trend we experienced all year, however, Cola volume lagged expectations and offset very strong growth in Aquafina, Mt. Dew and our other flavored carbonated soft drinks."

For the full year, domestic turnover increased by 3.1% $2.72 billion, while international sales were up by 4.8% to $444.3m. Domestic operating income stood at $294.4m, 2% lower than 2000, while international activities incurred operating losses of $21.1 million, against operating losses of $26m in the previous year.
"As was true for the fourth quarter, soft volume was the principal driver of our 2001 results,'' Pohlad said. "Slightly higher expenses caused operating income to decline, but lower financing costs and fewer shares outstanding increased EPS. This performance obscured a number of significant accomplishments this year. We achieved our target for reducing international operating losses in 2001, consistent with our plan to achieve profitability for this business in 2003, and we completed the integration process resulting from the merger of Whitman and PepsiAmericas in November of 2000."