Shares in the leading Coca-Cola bottling firm are fizzing as profit shoots up

 
Courtney Goldsmith
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Coca Cola Shares Reach 4-Year High After After Q1 Earnings Announcement
Coca-Cola's leading bottling company had a strong year (Source: Getty)

Leading drinks bottler Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company (HBC) today reached the top spot on the FTSE 100 risers' board as it announced its profit beat expectations yet again.

The figures

The soft drinks bottler's net profit jumped 22.5 per cent to €343.5m (£292.3m) from €280.3m for the year ended 31 December 2016.

Net sales revenue lifted three per cent on a currency neutral basis, but fell two per cent to €6.22bn. Volumes were up just 0.1 per cent from 2015 due to declines in Russia and weak performance in Italy and Austria.

Shares in the FTSE 100-listed firm rose 3.29 per cent at 1,883p in afternoon trading. Over the last 12 months, Coca-Cola HBC's share price has leapt 40 per cent.

Read more: Coca-Cola bottler's share price fizzes on popping profits

Why it's interesting

Coca-Cola HBC, which bottles, sells and distributes Coca-Cola in 28 countries, has turned its attention to emerging and developing markets, and it's paying off.

Price increases, mainly in emerging markets, helped balance the company's revenue, which was dragged down by currency movements and weakness in Russia.

Cost-cutting measures have also helped. The drinks bottler said its cost efficiencies resulted in a 100 basis-point reduction in comparable operating expenses.

The company is tipped as a possible buyer for the 57 per cent stake in Coca-Cola Beverages Africa that Coke is putting up for sale following the takeover of its partner SABMiller by Anheuser-Busch InBev.

What Coca-Cola HBC said

Dimitris Lois, chief executive of Coca-Cola HBC, said:

We have delivered solid currency-neutral revenue growth and another year of significant growth in margins and profits, representing a sustainable and well established recovery. Cost and efficiency actions continue to improve profitability and enable the business to maximise the gains from top line growth.

In 2017, we expect slightly better economic conditions to support volume growth. We take confidence from these improving underlying trends as well as the success of both our commercial activities and cost initiatives, which will remain key focus areas in our plans.

What analysts said

Coca-Cola HBC is positive about the outlook for 2017 due to its focus on developing and emerging countries, said Paul Hickman, analyst at Edison Investment Research.

He added:

In contrast to UK-centric consumer companies, Coca-Cola HBC is strikingly positive about the outlook for 2017, as a result of its focus on developing and emerging countries. The rising oil price, and signs of bottoming out in the Russian and Nigerian economies are, for it, grounds for positive expectations both on volumes and margins. That is before currency effects however, and with potential devaluation in both countries’ currencies, current guidance is for a €15m adverse currency effect, around 5 per cent of net profit.

In short

Better-than-expected growth put the fizz in Coca-Cola HBC's share price, proving investors are just as confident as the firm that it'll meet its 2020 goals.

Read more: Coca-Cola smashes green water target five years early

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