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Coca-Cola Beverages posts lower sales, but merger with Hellenic Bottling makes progress

Coca-Cola Beverages has posted lower 1999 sales and a steeper loss, but said its UK 1.4 billion merger with Hellenic Bottling was making progress.
The European beverage group“s pre-tax loss on ordin…

Coca-Cola Beverages has posted lower 1999 sales and a steeper loss, but said its UK 1.4 billion merger with Hellenic Bottling was making progress. The European beverage group“s pre-tax loss on ordinary activities for the year ended December 31 was UK 36.1 million compared with a pro-forma loss of UK 15.5 million the previous year. Revenue from continuing operations was UK 1.13 billion, down from UK 1.21 billion in 1998, also on a pro-forma basis, said the bottler, which is a part of the global distribution system of US soft drinks giant Coca-Cola Co. Chairman and chief executive Neville Isdell said: “We remain confident of our ability to achieve profitable volume growth over the longer term.” However, the company said prospects for improvement in CCB“s operating territories – covering Italy, Switzerland, Austria and Central and Eastern Europe – were mixed. In 1999, markets were hit by economic weakness, which affected demand. Things were expected to improve this year but there was no sign of recovery in Ukraine and Belarus. The 1999 loss per share was 4.2p, against 3p for 1998. Pro-forma cash operating profit fell to UK 100.5 million from UK 123.8 million. Isdell said business was hurt for several months by Coca-Cola recalls in Belgium, France and Poland. On the strategic front, Atlanta-based Coca-Cola, the world“s largest soft drinks company, is trying to steer mergers of its dozens of bottlers worldwide and the Hellenic-CCB deal plays a key role. The European Union has approved the acquisition of CCB by Greece“s Hellenic to form the world“s second-largest Coca-Cola bottler.

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