* Q1 net loss at 35.8 mln euros
* Russian rouble devaluation hurts profit
* CEO says Russia still a key growth driver
(Adds CEO comments, details)
By Angeliki Koutantou
ATHENS, May 16 Coca-Cola HBC (CC HBC)
, the world's No. 2 bottler of Coca-Cola Co
drinks, posted a bigger-than-expected quarterly loss, hurt by
currency losses in its Russian and Ukrainian operations.
Russia, CC HBC's biggest market in terms of sales, grew by a
high single digit percentage in the first quarter. The company
said Russia will remain its main growth driver, despite a likely
slowdown in business over the rest of the year.
"What we have seen in the last couple of quarters in the
external (macro) environment will filter through to the
consumers and that will be reflected in the overall trading,"
chief executive officer Dimitris Lois told Reuters. "We still
believe that Russia will be a key growth driver," he said.
The bottler, which buys syrup concentrate from Coca-Cola and
then bottles and distributes the U.S. group's drinks in 28
countries in Europe and Nigeria, had a net loss of 35.8 million
euros ($49.1 million) in the first three months of the year,
excluding restructuring and other one-off items.
This was much higher than analysts' average forecast of a 17
million euro loss in a Reuters poll.
The sharp devaluation in the Russian rouble and Ukrainian
hryvnia against the euro due to political tensions in Ukraine
damaged CC HBC's results.
The group warned foreign exchange losses for the full year
would be higher than initially expected, at around 90-100
million euros in 2014 versus the 51-70 million euros projected
in February. But it was taking action including extra cost
cutting in Ukraine and Russia to mitigate the impact.
Greece, a significant market in terms of profit, grew for
the first time after four years. But the company said it was
still cautious, citing record unemployment and falling household
incomes in the country.
CC HBC reiterated its guidance for free cash flow of about
1.3 billion euros in the 2013-2015 period and Lois said that the
firm was still expecting to enhance volume and margins this
($1 = 0.7291 Euros)
(Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou; Editing by Mark Heinrich)