February 26, 2009 / 3:02 PM / 9 years ago

UPDATE 2-Cott narrows loss, misses expectations

* Loss drops 82 percent to $13.2 mln

* Charges fall to $10.1 mln from $75 mln

* Revenue declines 10 percent

* Stock down 8 percent as results miss expectations (Adds details. In U.S. dollars unless noted)

By Susan Taylor

OTTAWA, Feb 26 (Reuters) - Cott Corp (BCB.TO) COT.N reported a smaller fourth-quarter loss on Thursday as special charges came in lower than a year earlier, but the soft-drink maker’s results missed expectations and its shares fell.

Cott, the world’s largest maker of private-label soft drinks, is struggling with weak demand, high commodity prices and tough competition from brand-label drink makers.

Late last month, Wal-Mart ended an exclusive supply agreement in the United States with the company. Wal-Mart, the world’s biggest retailer, represents more than 30 percent of Cott’s business.

“It’s a show-me stock in my view and that means that until the company delivers something that meets or beats expectations, particularly in this market, there’s likely only indifference at best to this stock,” said BMO Capital Markets analyst David Hartley in an interview.

Cott shares dropped 8 percent on the Toronto Stock Exchange to C$1.03 and 5.6 percent on New York to 84 cents after the results on Thursday.

The Toronto-based company said it lost $13 million, or 19 cents a share, compared with a loss of $75 million, or $1.05, in the same period a year earlier.

The latest results included $10 million in asset impairment and restructuring charges, down sharply from $66.4 million in special charges in the year-before quarter.

Revenue fell 10 percent to $371.4 million on currency fluctuations and lower volumes, Cott said.

Analysts were expecting, on average, a loss of 4 cents a share and revenue of $383.4 million, according to Reuters Estimates.

Cott has hinged its hopes on a recovery plan that focuses on private-label customers while it cuts operating costs.

In the latest quarter, Cott said that North American volumes increased, but fell sharply in Britain, Mexico, and international markets. T

Cott forecast market share gains in 2009, citing a better commodity outlook and a shift by cash-strapped consumers to private label drinks.

“Early indication is that volumes are starting to go in the right direction,” Hartley said.

Cott could also benefit from a widening price gap between its drinks and those of branded products, which Hartley estimates at slightly more than 40 percent. ($1=$1.24 Canadian) (Reporting by Susan Taylor; Editing by Peter Galloway, Frank McGurty)

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