UPDATE 2-Greek CCH profit beats f’csts, sales worry

* CCH ’09 comparable net 437 mln euros vs f’cast 429.5 mln

* Volume falls 2 percent, soft drink demand remains weak

* Says sees profit performance more weighted towards H2

* Shares down on sales volume concerns

(Adds more details, official comments)

By Angeliki Koutantou

ATHENS, Feb 4 (BestGrowthStock) – Greek bottler Coca-Cola Hellenic
(HLBr.AT: ) (CCH) reported on Thursday forecast-beating 2009
results, thanks to cost savings, however shares fell on
investors’ concerns over weak sales volume.

CCH, the world’s second-largest bottler of Coca-Cola (KO.N: ),
reported comparable net profit of 437 million euros ($612.3
million) versus an average forecast of 429.5 million in a
Reuters poll.

The global downturn led consumers to slash spending on soft
drinks and caused currency devaluations since the last quarter
of 2008, which hurt CCH’s business.

“We continue to witness weak consumer sentiment, with
purchasing power affected by the difficult economic
environment,” Chief Executive Officer Doros Constantinou said in
a statement.

But the bottler’s move to cut expenses and restructure
operations helped to support profit.

At 1031 GMT, shares fell 2.10 percent, underperforming the
Athens bourse general index (.ATG: ) which was down 1.7 percent.

Analysts said that even though results were good, investors
worried about falling sales volume.

“CCH results were pleasing. But the fact that volume
remained weak and CCH did not provide any guidance on profit is
weighing on its shares today,” IBG analyst Natalia Svyrou said.

The company did not give any profit guidance last year, nor
has it provided any for 2010, but it said it expected free cash
flow of about 1.5 billion euros by the end of 2012.

It said trading conditions remained challenging and that a
recovery, if it happened, could first come in the established
markets, towards the second half of the year.

Full-year 2009 sales volume fell 2 percent to 2.07 billion
unit cases, at the low end of market forecasts, with revenue
down 6 percent to 6.5 billion euros.

COST CUTTING TO CONTINUE

The bottler said it achieved cost savings of 140 million
euros last year, exceeding its 115-120 million euro target, and
that it will continue to focus on cost cutting this year.

In a phone interview, Constantinou said that 60 million
euros of last year’s savings would create permanent benefits for
the company because they related to warehousing, distribution
and administrative costs.

The firm also said it expected a small foreign exchange gain
as volatility on the currency market receded.

Foreign currencies’ movements had a negative impact of 160
million euros on last year’s profits, it said.

The group also expected restructuring moves, which cost
about 39 million euros last year, to create an additional annual
benefit of about 50 million euros from this year onwards.

Including one-time items, CCH’s profit rose to 399 million
euros versus 227.6 million in 2008. A goodwill impairment charge
of 189 million euros had burdened the 2008 figure.

Stock Market News

(Editing by David Holmes and Sharon Lindores)

UPDATE 2-Greek CCH profit beats f’csts, sales worry