Soft drinks bottler Coca-Cola Enterprises has provided guidance for its full year 2004 and 2005 and outlined plans for three new launches next year.

CCE said it was targeting balanced volume and pricing growth in 2005 with operating income up 4 to 5%. 2005 earnings per diluted common share are expected in low to mid-$1.30s range.

The company added that cash flow from operations less capital spending is expected to total approximately US$700m in 2005.

Chairman of the board Lowry F. Kline said: "2004 has been a difficult year as we have worked to overcome the substantial impact of health and wellness trends on regular soft drinks, a slowing retail environment and cool, rainy weather in many of our territories.

"While we did not generate expected levels of performance this year, we took steps to preserve our strong free cash flow, strengthen our revenue management capabilities and solidify an improved planning process with The Coca-Cola Company to bolster the opportunity for future success."

The management said it expects reported 2004 earnings per diluted share in a range of US$1.21 to US$1.23, with comparable EPS in a range of US$1.26 to US$1.28. 2004 comparable earnings per diluted share exclude the 5% impact of transitioning to new concentrate pricing in North America.

"We expect full-year 2004 case sales to decline approximately 1 percent in North America and 4 percent to 5 percent in Europe. All case sales comparisons are presented on a comparable basis for shipping days and acquisitions," a statement said.

"In 2005, we expect to achieve an improved balance of volume and pricing growth in both North America and Europe as we benefit from our system's renewed efforts on innovation and marketing," said John R. Alm, president and chief executive officer. "We will achieve this improvement through brand, package, channel, and operational initiatives that support our four primary strategic objectives."

The company also outlined plans for 2005 and said it would be looking at strengthening its brand portfolio.

"In the first quarter, we will introduce a new energy drink, Full Throttle, as well as Dasani flavored waters and additional innovation within our regular soft drink portfolio. Details on this innovation will be announced after the first of the year. Our plans for the summer and second half of the year call for additional soft drink innovation, particularly diet and light products, that will enable us to capture the significant opportunity in this fast-growing category.," the statement said.

"We recognize there are challenges ahead in 2005 as we continue to deal with health and wellness trends, a soft retail environment and higher commodity costs," Alm said. "Yet we are confident our improved innovation pipeline, effective pricing plans, strong customer relationships and a dedication to continuous improvement in our operations will enable us to achieve our 2005 goals."