GREECE: Coca-Cola HBC cuts profit forecast

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Weak economic conditions have forced Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Co. to slash earnings growth estimates for its full-year.

Earnings per share and operating profit are likely to be flat for the full-year, compared to previous forecasts of at least 5% growth, Coca-Cola HBC said today (2 October).

It added that volume growth would likely total 4%, compared to its earlier prediction of 6%.

The Greece-based Coca-Cola bottler blamed weak economic conditions and poor weather for the performance slip, and its announcement  serves as a further warning to the industry that tough times lie ahead.

Coca-Cola HBC said volumes grew 4% in its third quarter, down from an anticipated 7% and marking a slowdown from its reported 12% growth in the third quarter of 2007.

The group said a third quarter volume decline in Russia hampered performance. "In addition, there are signs that sustained high inflation and recent volatility in the financial markets are weighing on consumer confidence, which causes us to adopt a more cautious outlook for the balance of year," it said.

Managing director Doros Constantinou said: "As we enter our 2009 business planning cycle, we are identifying further opportunities to reduce our costs and align our infrastructure to expected volume. The fundamentals of our business remain solid, as proven by the expansion of our market share across most of our territories."

Rival bottler The PepsiCo Bottling Group said this week that "soft economic conditions" caused a 6% drop in global volumes in its third quarter to 6 September. Shares in the firm rose, however, after it predicted slightly higher earnings per share for the full-year.

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