Belfast Telegraph

Coca-Cola puts fizz into profits despite 4% sales drop

By Margaret Canning

Coca-Cola in Northern Ireland, which produces 29 other drinks brands as well as the famous fizzy beverage, has reported a 4% slump in sales to £189.6m during 2014.

But pre-tax profits at the firm, which has a major operation at Knockmore Hill in Lisburn, were up from £7m to £10.5m.

The company said its unit sales had fallen from £197m during 2013 but that it had improved its techniques in buying and inventory management, as well as saving on costs.

It also said it faced competition from imported Coke products, which along with consolidation in the grocery trade, had squeezed margins. Staff numbers fell from 526 to 517 during the year.

As well as Coca-Cola in its three forms - Coke Zero, Coca-Cola and Diet Coke - the factory also produces Deep River Rock water, lemonades, mixers, pure fruit juices and chilled teas and coffees. Its 30 brands come in 50 different packaging types.

In a strategic report accompanying the results, the company said: "The directors are committed to long-term creation of shareholder value by increasing the company's market share through organic growth, including new product innovations.

"Despite a decrease in number of units sold in comparison to prior year, achievements of improvements in buying, inventory management and overhead cost savings has resulted in the satisfactory results reported in 2014, despite the sector remaining highly competitive."

But the firm said one of the challenges it faced was maintaining sales on its familiar territory of soft drinks while looking to other the growing areas of juice, water, energy and 'wellness' drinks.

The company made charitable donations of £18,000 during the year.

The firm operates two funded defined benefit schemes. Following a valuation of the schemes, the company paid lump sum contributions per year of £2.426m in 2014 and £2.475m in 2015 to 2018 inclusive.

Meanwhile, the company's former premises in Lambeg is on the market for £3.75m, down £0.5m on its original asking price.

Agents Lambert Smith Hampton describe the site as an "industrial complex with redevelopment potential".

The former production base and bottling plant at Lambeg had previously been on the market for £4.25m.

The factory was one of two plants used by the Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company to produce the drink in Ireland, until all production was moved in 2008 to the larger facility on a 45-acre site at Knockmore Hill.

Coca-Cola HBC's ultimate holding company is Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling AG, a quoted company incorporated in Switzerland.

Belfast Telegraph