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Bottling giant Refresco has expanded its footprint in North America with the acquisition of AZPACK (Arizona Production & Packaging) as it continues its acquisition spree.

The world’s largest independent bottling group, following its acquisition of Cott’s bottling activities last year, said the acqusiton of AZPACK’s manufacturing acitivies in Tempe, Arizona increases its North American footprint to 27 locations.

Hans Roelofs, CEO Refresco Group, commented: “North America is a large and very diverse market with a lot of growth potential in different drinks categories.

“With the addition of AZPACK to the Refresco Group, we will be even better positioned to service customers in the Southwestern USA across many categories, including energy drinks and innovative sports drinks. AZPACK will have a specialist role in the Refresco Group, as they are known for their expertise in manufacturing complex niche products for branded beverage companies.”

Adds Peter Reilly, co-founder of AZPACK, added: “We have grown our company significantly over the past decade, but recognize the need for a different and larger platform in order to continue to grow and thrive.

“Both Dr. Wang and I will stay on as managers to support this next growth phase. Refresco is a very experienced beverage solutions provider and they value entrepreneurship and flexibility as much as we do. Our can-do mentality perfectly matches their approach to serving customers.”

The deal adds to the recent acquisition of Coca-Cola European Partners’ plant in the UK as well as a strategic partnership with PepsiCo in Spain, and a proposed acquisition of three Britvic bottling facilities in France earlier this week.

Meanwhile, the group has announced a slight drop in third quarter volumes, which fell to 2.91bn litres from 3.02bn in the same period last year.

However, gross profits rose to €446m from €408m and gross profit margin per liter was 15.3 euro cents compared to 13.5 euro cents last year.

Adjusted EBITDA increased to €128m from €97m.

Roelofs commented: “We are pleased to report a solid set of third quarter results [which reflect] the synergies gained from the acquisition of the former Cott’s bottling business and a further shift towards higher margin products.

“In line with market developments we saw a decrease in volume, most notably in Europe. The year-to-date volumes are still ahead of the same period last year with recent investments in production capabilities and the new business that we contracted being helped by our enlarged coverage in North America.

“Strategically we are shifting towards the provision of total beverage solutions to our customers whereby our focus on added-value services, more complex products and a more sustainable use of materials is increasing the value we can bring. With the recent announcements, and a well-filled pipeline of potential acquisition targets, we continue to see ample opportunities for further growth.”

Morning update

Retail technology group Eagle Eye has reported a double-digit jump in sales in the first four months of its financial year.

In a statement ahead of its AGM later today Eagle Eye said it was building on a successful financial year ended 30 June, which saw it increase revenues, transaction volumes, international reach and customer base.

Malcolm Wall, chairman of Eagle Eye, will tell the meeting the group has continued to “successful execute our strategy” in the first four months of its new financial year, with revenue growth of 24%.

Revenue generated by its AIR platform is up 25% year-on-year during the period.

Wall commented: “This growth has been driven by the impact of wins at the end of the last financial year, together with transaction growth from brand campaigns through our food and beverage network.

“In addition, in October 2019, we successfully completed the full roll out of our loyalty service for an existing Tier 1 customer, demonstrating our continued ability to deepen our client relationships by providing additional revenue generating services.”

The period has delivered an adjusted EBITDA profit, in line with management expectations.

The group also confirmed that an agreement with a New Zealand customer secured in 2019 has developed into a multi-year contract since year-end.

“ As we have progressed through the first months of the year, the number of revenue generating initial customer engagements across the group has continued to grow, boding well for future multi-year contracts,” Wall said.

Its move to the Google Cloud Platform has meant it can launch into new geographies, no longer requiring the significant upfront investment in technology and capacity, removing a significant barrier to global expansion.

It said this enhanced capability has already begun to pay dividends in Australia and it is making “good progress” in the US as it works alongside partner News America Marketing.

Eagle Eye said the successful go live of work for two UK Tier 1 customers in the second quarter, combined with the continued growth of the existing customer base, is anticipated to drive a strong uptick in transaction volumes and revenue in the remainder of the quarter.

Wall commented: “We have an increasing number of promising revenue generating customer engagements, which combined with our high levels of recurring revenue, very low levels of customer churn and expanding market opportunity provide the board with confidence as we look to the remainder of the year and beyond.”

Elsewhere, private label goods manufacturer McBride (MCB) has announced the appointment of new non-exec director.

Elizabeth McMeikan, who formerly had senior management roles in operations and marketing at Colgate Palmolive and Tesco, will join the board with immediate effect.

Group and private company Fresca Group, where she chairs the audit committee. Her past appointments include senior independent director at JD Wetherspoon and remuneration committee chair at Flybe.

She will become a member of McBride’s nomination, remuneration and audit committees.

Jeff Nodland, chairman of McBride, commented: “Liz brings valuable experience from customer-focused businesses including Colgate Palmolive and Tesco. This, combined with her strong non-executive experience, makes her an excellent addition to the Board. We are delighted to welcome Liz to McBride.”

On the markets this morning, the FTSE 100 has edged down 0.2% to 7,340pts.

Eagle Eye shares are up 3.2% to 162p after this morning’s announcement.

Other risers include Bakkavor, up 1.5% to 124p, AG Barr (BAG), up 1.3% to 552p and SSP Group (SSPG), up 0.9% to 656p.

Fallers include Sainsbury’s (SBRY), down 2% to 201.8p, Glanbia (GLB), down 0.8% to €11.38 and Marks & Spencer (MKS), down 0.8% to 178.9p.

Yesterday in the City

The FTSE 100 recovered from early falls yesterday to end the day down a more modest 0.2% to 7,351.2pts.

Coca-Cola HBC (CCH) was one of the market’s stand out performers yesterday as its shares jumped 6.1% to 2,503p as it belied fears that a wet summer in Europe would damage sales volumes.

Ocado (OCDO) made something of a recovery from heavy recent falls, rising 5.5% to 1,133.5p, while B&M European Value (BME) bounced back from a share falls drop on Tuesday following marked drop in first half profits as it rose 4.3% to 372p.

Other risers included Premier Foods (PFD), which rose a further 1.9% to 37.1p on the back of encouraging first half results and Diageo (DGE), up 1.8% to 3,116p.

Fallers yesterday included Marks & Spencer (MKS), down 2.4% to 180.3p, Stock Sprits (STCK), down 2.4% to 199.2p, McBride (MCB), down 2.1% to 74p, AG Barr (BAG), down 1.8% to 545p, Imperial Brands (IMB), down 1.7% to 1,762.2p and WH Smith (SMWH), down 1.6% to 2,292p.