Coca-Cola Enterprises today (27 April) reported a 20% slump in operating profit for the first quarter of 2006 as restructuring charges weighed on earnings.

The world's largest Coke bottler posted operating profit of US$176m, down from US$220m a year earlier. Revenues were up 3% to US$4.3bn as global volumes inched up 1%.

"Our first-quarter performance strengthens our confidence in our strategic direction in both Europe and North America," said Lowry F. Kline, chairman of the board. "We believe the strong operating plans we have in place, combined with the benefits of our ongoing expense initiatives and moderate cost increases, will enable us to reach our financial targets."

Kline served as CCE's interim chief executive during the quarter and yesterday was moved back to the role of chairman after the appointment of former InBev boss John Brock as chief executive.

Volumes in North America inched up 1%, buoyed by new products including Vault, Vault Zero and Black Cherry Vanilla Coca-Cola.

CCE saw volumes also grow in Europe by 1% with a 4% rise in volumes in continental Europe boosting the results. CCE said a weak carbonated soft drinks market in the UK weighed on the results and added: "A total volume decline of 3% reflects continuing difficult category trends. Initiatives to improve these trends will include the introduction of Coca-Cola Zero in the UK later this year, which is expected to further accelerate diet soft drink growth."

However, Kline added: "We recognise there are challenges in the months ahead, particularly in the UK. As a result, we anticipate moderate volatility in our quarterly performance in Europe for the balance of the year."