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Charlie’s Bucks Retail Trends With 7% Sales Growth

Media Release
18 November 2008


Charlie’s Bucks Retail Trends With 7% Sales Growth

Charlie’s Annual Meeting 2008

Improving earnings, healthy sales growth and a focus on expanding export markets were the key messages for shareholders at the Charlie’s Group annual meeting held today in Auckland.

Despite the softening of the retail market and increased pressure on consumer discretionary spend, Charlie’s was still performing well, with sales 7% ahead of last year, said Charlie’s chairman, Ted van Arkel.

“The economic environment is changing rapidly and has become increasingly challenging in recent months. With such market uncertainty, it is important that we maintain a prudent approach to the management of our business. But this does not mean we will stop innovating or looking for opportunities to maximise growth for the Group.

“A strong platform has been put in place and we are suitably positioned for the softer retail environment with a strong balance sheet that maintains high levels of equity. Bank lines are currently being used to fund the expansion of production facilities and increased levels of inventory from the extended supply chain. These will deliver a substantial increase in gross margin to drive future profits and provide the ability to grow production volumes in the future.

“Although we expect retail trading conditions to remain soft during the 2009 financial year, we remain confident that Charlie’s will continue on its path to becoming an ever more significant player in the beverage market, both here and in our major export markets.”

The meeting also provided an opportunity for Charlie’s CEO, Stefan Lepionka, to update shareholders on performance in the year to date and the company’s strategy to continue its growth in a more challenging economic environment.

“Charlie’s gross sales continue to grow, despite the current economic climate. At October 2008, our year to date gross sales were 7% ahead of the same period last year[1].

“Gross margins have also shown a strong improvement, mainly as a result of commencing production at the Australian facility and a more profitable product mix. Year to date to October we are tracking at 51% compared to 47% last year, and we expect this level to be maintained.

“The improved sales and margin performance have resulted in an EBITDA of $328,000 in the first four months of the financial year, representing a strong turn-around of more than $700,000 compared to last year.”

Stefan also commented on the company’s strategy to ensure continued growth and profitable returns.

“Much of our focus for this year and beyond will be on expanding our distribution in New Zealand and in Australia. Early orders for the Charlie’s brand in Australia have far exceeded our expectations and the growth of Phoenix Organics in this market is strong.

“We will also continue to build our brands and innovate. Internationally, consumers are leaning towards beverages which are healthy, good for you and using real and natural ingredients. Charlie’s Group is already the market leader of this trend in New Zealand.

“By continually developing and introducing new products, we can ensure we gain access to bigger, more profitable markets and opportunities. The bottled water category has been in massive growth and our new eco-bottle provides us with a desirable point of difference. The recently launched Charlie’s Vitamin Water also represents a huge opportunity as New Zealand follows the global trend in the growth of this new category.

“We are very aware of the current market conditions in which we are operating. We are focused on monitoring costs and performance efficiencies to ensure we continue to grow sales and maximise our profit.

“We expect good growth over the summer period, however, nobody can predict with certainty what trading conditions will be like in the coming months and we are mindful of the softer retail environment in which we are operating.

“It has been an exciting journey over the past three years and Charlie’s is now a well regarded, rapidly growing company built upon a solid business platform, with exceptional brands, premium quality products and distribution opportunities throughout New Zealand, Australia and Asia Pacific. Our strategy for the year is to balance our growth with achieving improved profitability.”

Shareholders agreed to all resolutions at the meeting, including:

1. Re-election of Mr Ted van Arkel as a director to the board;
2. Re-election of Mr Marc Ellis as a director to the board;
3. Re-appointment of PricewaterhouseCoopers as external auditors for the company.

ENDS

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