Cott Corp. has posted losses of C$17.5m (US$14.8m) for 2006 due to charges that include costs related to plant closures in the US and to its UK resin supplier going into receivership.

The Canada-based group, the world's largest producer of store-brand beverages, has reported a net loss of C$17.5m last year, a performance worsened by falling sales in North America.

Group revenues inched up 0.9% to C$1.8bn, thanks largely to its acquisition of UK drinks group Macaw. Stripping out the contribution of Macaw, Cott said revenues were down 3.6%; sales in North America slumped 6%.

Cott CEO Brent Willis said the company had moved to take "significant costs" out of the business last year.

He said on Friday (2 February): "We made a number of changes necessary to rebuild our business foundation which we expect will deliver solid results in 2007. We took actions to remove millions of dollars in costs from the business, eliminated hundreds of positions (and) restructured and refocused the organisation."

Willis joined Cott last May and, two months after his arrival, the company began restructuring the business. In July, the company said it would also cut 77 jobs and create two separate divisions for its North American and international operations. In October, Cott announced that it would axe two plants in the US with the loss of 350 jobs.

Willis insisted the "top- and bottom-line opportunities" at Cott are "considerable". He added: "The improvement in our business fundamentals in the fourth quarter of 2006, particularly in cost reduction and core customer partnerships, is encouraging.

"We have made good progress in improving day-to-day operations, discipline and focus but we still have significant opportunities to improve execution."

Last month, Cott made another move to gain access to the Chinese soft drinks market, signing a letter of intent on a deal with Jianlibao Group, a soft drinks bottler based in the country's Guangdong province.