Coca Cola Amatil expects profit growth

Investors disappointed with Coca-Cola Amatil's (CCA) profit estimates for 2012 have sent the beverage group's shares to a two-week low.

CCA said on Wednesday net profit before significant items for the 12 months to December 31, 2012, was forecast to rise between four and five per cent from $532 million in the prior corresponding period.

The earnings guidance failed to impress, with CCA sliding 2.59 per cent, or 36 cents, to $13.56 on a day the broader market rose about 0.2 per cent.

It was CCA's lowest close since November 28, when it finished at $13.54, and in percentage terms the stock was the third worst-performing company on the S&P/ASX50.

City Index chief market analyst Peter Esho said CCA had been expected to post profit growth of about seven or eight per cent.

"Investors pay a premium for the quality of the stock," Mr Esho said on Wednesday.

"So when earnings growth does not meet expectations there tends to be some disappointment and some of that premium comes out."

That gap between earnings expectations and company guidance may be explained by the disappointing performance of its New Zealand and SPC Ardmona operations.

CCA managing director Terry Davis said trading conditions had not improved in those two businesses, adding that they had "negatively impacted overall group earnings growth by approximately two per cent for 2012".

Volume and earnings were expected to fall in New Zealand in calendar 2012 amid a decline in the overall beverage market, CCA said.

Meanwhile, SPC Ardmona's competitiveness against imported brands and supermarket private labels had been hurt by the strong Australian dollar.

In Australia, CCA said it had gained market share over the year and had made a solid start to the Christmas season.

However, Mr Davis said the local market was still tough, with consumer spending levels soft and volume growth held back during the second half due to "price-driven competitor activity".

"While the trading environment in Australia remains challenging, we have seen some improved momentum in the lead-up to Christmas," Mr Davis said in a statement.

"While we still have an important two weeks of trading ahead of us, at this stage we expect to deliver positive volume and revenue growth for the second half."

Mr Davis said Indonesia and Papua New Guinea would deliver a strong performance.

CCA is a diversified food and beverage company that distributes soft drinks, water, flavoured milk and ready-to-eat fruit and vegetable products in Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Fiji.

Meanwhile, CCA said it had signed a long-term exclusive agreement to distribute Rekorderlig cider, produced in Sweden, in Australia from January 1, 2014.

Under the terms of the sale of CCA's previous beer business to SABMiller, CCA was restrained from selling, distributing or manufacturing beer in Australia until December 16, 2013, but can distribute beer in other markets.

In other news, CCA said it had bought the Jakarta non-alcoholic beverage bottling assets of PT San Miguel Indonesia Food and Beverages, and a warehouse in Papua New Guinea.

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