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Mexican Coca-Cola Bottler Arca Contal Raises Prices To Offset Costs

04/25/2012 | 01:26pm US/Eastern

Mexican soft drink bottler Arca Continental SAB (EMBVF, AC.MX) said Wednesday it raised prices on its products during the first quarter to account for inflation, foreign exchange fluctuations and higher raw materials costs.

Adrian Wong, chief financial officer at Latin America's second-biggest bottler of Coca-Cola Co. (>> The Coca-Cola Company) products, told analysts during a conference call that the company hiked prices in Mexico by 6.2% while prices for goods sold in South America increased by 18%.

Mexico accounts for around 76% of Arca Contal's beverage volume sales while Argentina and Ecuador supply the rest.

Mexican consumers are avid consumers of carbonated beverages, with a high level of per capita consumption. Still, Arca Contal's first quarter volume sales in that market rose 3.7% year-on-year, with cola volume sales having gained 4.9%.

Arca Contal attributed the Mexico gains to its efforts to widen its product mix by rolling out new soft-drink package presentations while also improving distribution.

"Every time we think this is such a mature market, with a high per-capita consumption, we find opportunities to grow," said Arturo Gutierrez, the company's chief operating officer.

The company has noticed that PepsiCo Inc. (PEP) has been more active selling to the restaurant channel since consolidating its Mexican presence last year into a nationwide beverage company.

Chief executive Francisco Garza said Arca Contal is working to minimize the impact of Pepsi's efforts to raise restaurant sales, while characterizing the volumes moved in restaurants as less important relative to those of other sales channels.

Apart from restaurants, Garza said the competitive dynamics with Pepsi haven't changed much.

-By Amy Guthrie, Dow Jones Newswires; (5255) 5980-5177, amy.guthrie@dowjones.com

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