Review of Operations
Central America
 
2003
2002*
Financial summary

US$m

US$m  

Turnover

514

186  

EBITA**
56
22  
EBITA margin (%)
10.8
11.9  
     
Sales volume (hls 000s)
– Lager
1,747
624  
– CSDs
6,257
2,231  
– Other beverages
2,499
824  
*Four months.
**Before exceptional items being reorganisation costs of US$12 million in 2003.
 
Far right
Bottling line, Industrias La
Constancia, El Salvador

Near right
Pilsener beer canning line, Industrias La Constancia, El Salvador
 
The current year represents the first full year of the group's ownership of its Central American investments. The period under review was characterised by weak economic performance in both El Salvador and Honduras and strong competitive pressures in the CSD market, particularly El Salvador. Major structural changes, aimed at establishing a foundation for future growth, have been actioned in both of our businesses.

Against this broad background, CSD volumes were down in both El Salvador and Honduras, registering a 6.9% decline in total versus the comparable prior year. In particular, El Salvador endured the entry of an aggressive CSD competitor, which has effectively led to a short-term and, we believe, unsustainable reduction in prices. Lager volumes fared better, and were flat on a pro forma basis.

Honduras achieved a 4.4% growth – the first time that growth has been achieved in four years, but there was a 6.5% decline in El Salvador. Water volumes in El Salvador were up 1%.

Sales declines have depressed the reported EBITA performance and reduced operating margins. However, the year has been one of major structural change. The restructuring of our Central American businesses has proceeded well. In each country we have merged the sales and distribution functions for beer and CSDs. We have rationalised packaging assets in the businesses and closed certain production and distribution sites. Across the region we have merged our back office operations and integrated our financial systems. This has resulted in significant headcount reduction in both countries' operations and will lead to substantial savings in future financial years. The El Salvadorian companies have been merged and we expect to do the same in Honduras in the current year.

The strategy is to continue the conversion of the company into a marketing focussed enterprise with a strong portfolio of relevant brands. A number of brand and packaging changes are planned, and these should support improved performance in the market place.

Initiatives are also in place to improve production efficiencies with the roll-out of the World Class Manufacturing initiative, continued rationalisation of surplus facilities and ongoing sales and distribution integration.