Coke Bottler Reports Higher Profit from New Brands, Increased Pricing

ATLANTA - Soft-drink bottler Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc. on Wednesday reported a higher than expected fourth-quarter profit due in part to increased pricing and to demand for new brands like Vanilla Coke.

The world's largest bottler of Coca-Cola soft drinks, which is about 40 percent owned by Coca-Cola Co., said it earned $77 million, or 17 cents a share, compared with a year-earlier loss of $36 million, or 8 cents a share, including nonrecurring items. Revenue rose to $4.25 billion from $3.94 billion.

Coke Enterprises said its performance in North America, its largest and most important market, improved because of the successful introduction of the Vanilla Coke and diet Vanilla Coke soft drinks.

The bottler's unit case volume, a key measure of financial health in the beverage industry, rose 2 percent in North America despite economic weakness there and jumped 5.5 percent in Europe.

For 2003, the company said it expects volume growth of 3 percent in North America and 4 percent to 6 percent in Europe.

Pricing per unit case, which equals 24 eight-ounce servings, rose 2 percent in North America and 5.5 percent in Europe.

Coke Enterprises executives said they are confident the company can continue to deliver volume growth while pushing through higher pricing for its products.
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