* Loss/shr from cont ops $6.29 vs $0.17 last year
* Q4 rev $280.1 mln vs $228.4 mln last year
* Does not have enough cash to repay debt
* Over $300 mln in debt payment due in 2013
* Shares fall 28 pct
By Ranjita Ganesan
Feb 29 (Reuters) - Struggling vodka maker Central European Distribution Corp raised “substantial doubts” about its ability to continue as a going concern and said it does not have enough money to repay debt, sending its stock plunging 28 percent.
The going concern warning caps several quarters of disappointing results and an 80 percent plunge in its stock price over the past year. Wall Street analysts have criticized the company’s management for missteps in Russia, where its business has been hit by higher spirit costs and weak demand.
The Polish company, which has more $300 million in scheduled debt repayment due next year, said cash and existing loans will not be enough to pay the principal on notes due 2013.
The maker of Absolwent and Parliament vodka also said it was exploring options, including an offer by its largest shareholder Roustam Tariko. Earlier this month, the Russian billionaire, who owns a 10 percent stake in CEDC, offered to help the company repay debt for a bigger stake.
The Polish company, which reported a wider quarterly loss, said it would consider alternatives like selling off assets, swapping convertible notes and issuing stock to meet its financial obligations.
Raiffeisen Centrobank analyst Jakub Krawczyk said some of CEDC’s assets and brands in Poland and Russia might draw interest from global players seeking to build a presence there. The analyst declined to name companies that might be interested.
Krawczyk also said Tariko’s offer was a “serious option” for CEDC as it could help eliminate operational problems.
Chief Executive William Carey said the company’s Russian business under-performed the market in the fourth quarter.
“The operating environment in Russia continues to be difficult, especially with continued spirit price increases and heavy discounting going on in the market,” Carey said in a statement.
Carey said the company will cut costs and raise prices in Russia, and named a new general manager for the region.
However, after a string of disappointing results and management missteps, Wall Street is skeptical about the company’s ability to revive its flagging business.
CEDC may have “bit more than it can chew in Russia,” analyst Krawczyk said.
For the fourth quarter, CEDC’s loss from continuing operations widened to $456.1 million, or $6.29 a share, from $132.19 million, or 17 cents, a year ago.
Excluding items, the company earned 11 cents a share.
Sales rose 23 percent to $280.1 million.
CEDC also said it expects to respond to a letter from its second-largest shareholder Mark Kaufman, who wants a seat on the board.
The company’s stock has shed more than 80 percent of its value over the past year. The shares fell to $4.22 on Wednesday. Just over a year ago, the stock was trading at over $25.