February 28, 2008 / 12:09 AM / 10 years ago

UPDATE 1-Cott says needs more time to file annual report

(Adds details, background; in U.S. dollars unless noted)

VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Feb 27 (Reuters) - Soft drinks maker Cott Corp (BCB.TO) told regulators on Wednesday it will delay filing its annual report, because it needs more time after moving its accounting operations to Florida.

Moving the offices from Toronto left it without enough people to complete the financial report, which the company said it will also have to report as a material weakness in its internal controls.

Cott said it expects to have the 10-K form filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission by March 13.

The company said it is taking steps to address the problem “as soon as practicable.”

The filing delay is just the latest in a series of woes for Cott, the world’s largest maker of private label soft drinks.

The firm reported a surprisingly big fourth-quarter loss on Feb. 8, citing swelling costs and one-time charges, coupled with weaker demand.

Cott’s fourth-quarter net loss ballooned to $76.8 million, or $1.07 a share, from $29.6 million, or 41 cents a share, in the same period a year ago.

Restructuring and asset impairment charges rose to $66.4 million from $23.5 million.

The operating loss grew to $75.2 million from $40.3 million. Absent charges, Cott said it would have swung to an $8.8 million operating loss from a profit of $6.5 million.

The company’s shares took a beating earlier this week after key customer Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N) served notice it would narrow U.S. shelf space for Cott’s soft drinks — a move Cott said would be “significant” to its business plans.

That news came on the heels of a report in industry newsletter Beverage Digest that said Cadbury Schweppes CBRY.L was likely gaining Wal-Mart shelf space for its Royal Crown and Diet Rite brands.

Cott’s shares closed unchanged at C$2.50 on Wednesday, before the delay was announced, well off their 52-week high of C$19.70 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

$1=$0.98 Canadian Reporting Allan Dowd, Editing by Rob Wilson

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