ATHENS, Greece (AP) â¿¿ Higher commodity prices and a later Easter combined to yield a first-quarter loss at Greece's Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company SA, the world's second largest Coke soft drinks bottler.

The company reported Tuesday that it made a euro1 million ($1.44 million) net loss for the first quarter, in contrast with last year's equivalent euro29 million and the previous quarter's euro33 million.

"Increasing commodity prices during our seasonally least significant trading period reduced our profitability for the quarter," said CEO Doros Constantinou.

Profitability was also affected by the late timing of Easter this year. In the run-up to Easter, the consumption of soft drinks traditionally increases.

Though Constantinou said input costs will remain a challenge this year, he expects trading conditions to "improve as we move into our more important summer selling period during the second quarter."

The company said it expected commodity costs to increase "by low double digits," mainly due to world prices for sugar and one of the components in beverage containers. While global prices have dipped recently, the company said it expects the impact on margins to peak in the second quarter.

While the company said it was "encouraged by improving economic trends in key countries" such as Russia, Nigeria, Switzerland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, many others were still suffering from high unemployment and weak consumer sentiment, including Greece, Ireland, Italy, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria.
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