UPDATE 1-Rexam forecasts growth in North America, shares rise

Wed Feb 20, 2013 5:26am EST

* Full-year underlying pretax profit 418 mln stg, up 1 pct

* Revenue up 2 pct

* Beverage can volumes up 6 pct

* Final dividend 10.2 pence per share vs 9.7 pence

* Shares rise as much as 6 percent

Feb 20 (Reuters) - Drinks-can maker Rexam Plc reported full-year underlying profit above analysts' estimates and said it expects sales to grow in its largest market North America, sending its shares up as much as 6 percent in early trading.

Rexam said it has a 20 percent market share in North America, the world's largest beverage can market with 100 billion cans used per year.

The company gets about a third of its revenue from the market, according to Thomson Reuters data.

"We'll expect to see some high-single digit (to) low double digit growth in North America because we're also seeing specialty cans growing very well there," Chief Executive Graham Chipchase said in a post-earnings call.

Rexam, which counts Anheuser-Busch Inbev SA, Coca-Cola Co, PepsiCo Inc and Red Bull among its customers, recorded 10 percent growth in specialty cans volumes in 2012.

The company also expects 2013 volume percentage growth in the mid-single digits in South America as its customers gear up for the 2014 Football World Cup and the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.

It did not give an overall growth forecast for 2013.

Rexam said it would invest 115 million pounds over the next three years to build a new beverage can plant with an expected capacity of 2.2 billion cans in Widnau, Switzerland.

The company, which competes with Ball Corp and Crown Holdings, reported an underlying pretax profit of 418 million pounds ($646 million) for the year ended Dec. 31, up from 414 million pounds a year earlier.

Analysts on average expected a pretax profit of about 414 million pounds, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Underlying profit excluded the sale of Rexam's personal care business, which it sold in July for $709 million.

Operating profit from Rexam's beverage can business, which generates 90 percent of its revenue, grew 5 percent to 465 million pounds. Beverage can volumes rose 6 percent.

Shares in the company were up 5.4 percent at 502.5 pence at 1014 GMT on the London Stock Exchange on Wednesday. They rose to 505.18 pence - their highest level in a year - earlier in the session.

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