The Greece-based soft drinks bottler, Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company (CCHBC), posted a loss of €26.3m for the first quarter of the current fiscal year, against a loss of €38.7m in the first quarter of 2002.

The loss was smaller than had been anticipated - analysts had forecast a net loss €37.4m - and CCHBC said it expected to meet its previously stated full-year targets. The company is forecasting volume growth of 7% to 9% for 2003 as a whole and EBITDA growth of between 11% and 13%.

CCHBC's earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) for the quarter rose by 10% to €95.3m.

Group revenues fell by 5.5% from €847.1m to €800.6m, and were below expectations. Analysts had been forecasting group sales growth of around 3% rise to €872.5m.

CCHBC attributed the drop in revenue to the weakness of certain local currencies against the Euro, notably in Nigeria, Poland, Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.

The increasing importance to CCHBC of emerging markets, where revenue per case is lower, also had a negative impact on group sales, the company said, as had the timing of the Easter holiday and unseasonally cold weather.