August 10, 2017 / 7:39 AM / 8 days ago

UPDATE 2-Drinks bottler Coke HBC's shares soar after sales surprise

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By Martinne Geller

LONDON, Aug 10 (Reuters) - Soft drink bottler Coca-Cola HBC reported higher-than-expected first-half sales on Thursday, helped by price increases, sending its shares up more than 8 percent to all-time highs.

The company, which was the top gainer on London's FTSE 100 index, said operating profit jumped by nearly 21 percent to 266.4 million euros ($312.5 million) in the first half of the year on sales revenue up 5.6 percent to 3.21 billion euros.

Excluding currency fluctuations, sales rose 5.7 percent, beating expectations for growth of 5 percent, according to several analysts.

The company, which bottles and sells Coca-Cola drinks in over two dozen countries, sold 1.4 percent more drinks, but the bulk of the sales growth came from price increases and selling a greater proportion of more expensive drinks. The company has raised prices in recent months in countries such as Russia and Nigeria.

UBS analysts said the implied growth for the second quarter was 6.1 percent, which was 1.2 percentage points above consensus. They also said the company's updated guidance implied mid-single-digit upgrades to consensus estimates for the year.

"We are on track for broad-based revenue and margin growth for the full year with the organisation energised by the progress we are making towards our 2020 financial targets," Chief Executive Dimitris Lois said in a statement.

The company added that "good volume trends will continue in the second half" with an acceleration in developing markets. At the same time, its price/mix growth should slow in emerging markets and developing markets.

The company's shares were up 8.4 percent to 2572 pence at 0934 GMT on Thursday. They had earlier risen to 2606 pence, their highest level of the company's four-year tenure on the London Stock Exchange.

$1 = 0.8524 euros Reporting by Martinne Geller; editing by Jane Merriman and David Evans

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