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US: Positive reaction to Coca-Cola Enterprises review

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Analysts have reacted positively to Coca-Cola Enterprises' announced restructuring plan and news that the bottler's 2008 earnings will not be as bad as feared.

Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE) saw its share price rise by more than 8% yesterday afternoon (18 December) following a conference call with analysts.

The soft drinks bottler slashed full-year earnings per share guidance in October, to a low of US$1.25, but yesterday lifted this to a range of $1.28-$1.31, due to higher than expected volume sales in North America over recent weeks.

CCE also outlined a new business strategy, which will include closing two of its six business units in the US and integrating more tightly with parent firm The Coca-Cola Co.

Analyst Mark Swartzberg, of Stifel Nicolaus and who attended the conference, said the news was positive for CCE's long-term outlook.

He was more cautious on 2009 performance, however, adding: "We think the company's 2009 earnings per share estimate of $1.20-$1.22, including currency, is too high and transition to an incidence-based pricing model in the US is a major undertaking."

Near-term earnings will be boosted by CCE and The Coca-Cola Co's deal to distribute Monster Energy drinks in several US states, following an agreement signed with Monster owner Hansen Natural.

Swartzberg said this could boost CCE operating profit by $85-90m next year.


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