(Adds details on emerging markets, background, CEO quote)
May 2 (Reuters) – Soft drink bottler Coca Cola HBC AG reported a 4.4 percent rise in first-quarter net sales revenue on Thursday, driven by strong demand in emerging markets – its largest segment.
The company, which sells Coca-Cola drinks in 28 countries mostly in Europe, said net sales revenue rose to 1.41 billion euros ($1.58 billion) in the quarter, from 1.35 billion euros a year earlier.
Its emerging markets segment saw net sales revenue rising 6.4 percent to 612.9 million euros, boosted by growth in Nigeria and ongoing expansion in Russia, Romania and Ukraine.
Volumes in Nigeria expanded by mid-single digits with stable volumes in sparkling drinks and strong volume growth in still drinks, including water and juices.
“We have started the year well, delivering solid growth in revenues despite the impact of this year’s late Easter,” Coca Cola HBC Chief Executive Zoran Bogdanovic said.
Cola HBC had warned earlier this year that an expected economic slowdown in several of its markets is likely to crimp consumer spending in its “established” and “developing” markets segments, which together comprised 48 percent of its volumes last year.
The company also proposed a special dividend of 2 euros per share.
U.S.-based Coca-Cola Co’s general business model is to sell syrup to a network of franchise bottlers in different markets who do the heavy lifting of bottling and delivering the drinks. Coca-Cola Co owns a 23.26 percent stake in Coca-Cola HBC, according to Refinitiv Eikon data. ($1 = 0.8932 euros) (Reporting by Tanishaa Nadkar and Noor Zainab Hussain in Bengaluru; editing by Gopakumar Warrier)