REFILE-UPDATE 3-Vodka maker CEDC's bleak outlook dispirits investors

Fri Nov 4, 2011 1:14pm EDT

* Q3 adj EPS $0.06 vs est. $0.19

* Q3 rev $228.9 mln vs est. $220.9 mln

* Cuts FY EPS outlook to $0.24-0.45

* Slashes rev forecast to $850-$950 mln

* Shares at 9-year low

By Abhishek Takle

Nov 4 (Reuters) - Central European Distribution Corp slashed its outlook for a second time this year and failed to outline plans to pay back debt, sparking a sell-off in the Polish vodka maker's stock that wiped out nearly a third of its market value.

The maker of Absolwent and Parliament vodka faces rising costs of spirits, weak sales volumes in Russia and has spent heavily on advertising to stem declines in its market share, denting its profits.

The company, which ended September with $111.2 million in cash, down from $122.3 million at the start of the year, has to meet debt payments of more than $300 million in 2013, sparking concerns over a lack of a plan to pay off maturing debt.

The company has come under pressure from Mark Kaufman, its top shareholder with a near-10 percent stake, who in September wrote to the company seeking a meeting with the board to discuss further investments.

On Friday, Kaufman listened to the company's post-earnings conference call with analysts, but his representative declined to comment.

"The idea was that most of the shareholders wanted to wait until the third-quarter announcement to give the company a chance to prove that past poor performance was only bad luck," a person familiar with the situation told Reuters.

The source said he was unsure if the company had a plan to pay back the debt maturing in 2013.

"At first glance, it's disappointing of course ... but we need to do more analysis. We really start to wonder if there's a plan."

BUYOUT TARGET?

Excluding its losses on Friday, CEDC's stock has shed more than three-quarters of its value this year, leading to speculation it may be bought out.

In September, Russian business daily Kommersant said billionaire Vasiliy Anisimov may swap his spirits assets for a 20 percent stake in CEDC to create a company controlling nearly a third of the Russian vodka market.

However, in a note last week Renaissance Capital analysts Natasha Zagvozdina and Roman Ivashko said the adoption of a poison pill, higher compensation for management and a spate of lawsuits could make a takeover more expensive.

The company now expects to earn 25-45 cents a share on revenue of $850-$950 million, down from its prior view of earnings of 80 cents to $1 a share on sales of $900 million to $1.05 billion.

July-September adjusted profit came in at 6 cents a share, missing analysts' estimates of 19 cents a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Net sales rose 45 percent to $228.9 million, beating expectations of $220.9 million.

The company's shares were down 29 percent at $3.53, their lowest in nearly a decade, on Friday on Nasdaq.

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California state worker Albert Jagow (L) goes over his retirement options with Calpers Retirement Program Specialist JeanAnn Kirkpatrick at the Calpers regional office in Sacramento, California October 21, 2009. Calpers, the largest U.S. public pension fund, manages retirement benefits for more than 1.6 million people, with assets comparable in value to the entire GDP of Israel. The Calpers investment portfolio had a historic drop in value, going from a peak of $250 billion in the fall of 2007 to $167 billion in March 2009, a loss of about a third during that period. It is now around $200 billion. REUTERS/Max Whittaker   (UNITED STATES) - RTXPWOZ

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