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Coca-Cola HBC hikes dividend, sees strong recovery after virus hit

Feb 11 (Reuters) - Soft drink bottler Coca-Cola HBC on Thursday raised its dividend and said it expects 2021 revenue to bounce back strongly as at-home demand cushions a hit to consumption in hotels and restaurants during COVID-19 restrictions.

The upbeat outlook and payout increase vaulted the British company’s shares to the top of the FTSE 100 index, where they traded 5% higher at 23.6 pounds by 0836 GMT.

Still, virus curbs hammered its out-of-home channel, which makes up 40% of revenues, sending 2020 comparable net profit 17.4% lower to 431.4 million euros ($522.94 million).

“We expect to see a strong FX-neutral revenue recovery in 2021 on the back of gradual volume recovery against the COVID-19 impact in 2020... Performance in the at-home channel strengthened through the year,” said the company, which bottles and sells Coca-Cola drinks in 28 countries.

It proposed a dividend of 0.64 euros per share for 2020, a 3.2% increase year-on-year.

The main U.S. company, Coca-Cola Co, forecast a return to organic revenue growth this year, betting vaccine rollouts across the world will encourage consumers to return to cinemas and sporting events.

$1 = 0.8249 euros Reporting by Priyanshi Mandhan and Jasmine IS in Bengaluru; Editing by Devika Syamnath

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