Key Points:

Beverage company Charlie's Group is reporting a 24 per cent rise in annual sales to $33 million but the company expects a small loss after tax.

Chief executive Stefan Lepionka said Charlie's would produce positive earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (ebitda) for the year to the end of last month, but would not exceed last year's ebitda result as previously hoped.

The group expects to release its audited results for the 2008 financial year in late August.

Chairman Ted van Arkel said Charlie's had shown strong profitability in the last quarter of the year as a direct result of moving production to the company's new Australian plant.

That had resulted in a large turnaround from the half year ebitda loss of $377,000, he said.

"We are now focused on balancing our ongoing investment for growth strategy with generating positive returns for our investors, as the benefits from investment initiatives put in place during 2008 start to flow through to the bottom line."

In its interim report for the six months to December, Charlie's had said that investment costs in the first half of the year had contributed to a net loss for the company.

The net loss after tax for the half year was $524,000, and the half year $377,000 ebitda loss included $211,000 of employee benefits expensed under new international accounting standards and $200,000 in costs related to setting up the Australian production facility.

In yesterday's update, Lepionka said export markets, particularly Australia with 44 per cent growth on last year, and Asia, continued to be a significant growth opportunity for Charlie's.

Also, as well as ongoing sales to South Korea, initial orders had been placed for Singapore and from a distributor based in India.

The company's new production plant in South Australia, commissioned in April, provided many benefits for Charlie's, including significant production cost savings and security of supply.

Lepionka said: "The transition from production at Charlie's third party contract packers to our own Australian facility led to some temporary out of stocks from our contract packers and product issues which have now been resolved."

Charlie's shares closed up 1.5c to 15c.

- NZPA