(Adds plan to buy 227 gas station operations and capital expenditures view)
MEXICO CITY, Feb 26 (Reuters) - Mexican bottling and retail company Femsa on Thursday reported a 45 percent rise in its fourth-quarter profit, mostly due to higher gains from its stake in brewer Heineken.
The company, which co-owns Coke bottler Coca-Cola Femsa and operates the Oxxo chain of convenience stores, reported a profit of 7.254 billion pesos ($492 million), compared to 4.988 billion pesos in the year-earlier period.
Revenue was flat at 70.156 billion pesos, partly reflecting a negative foreign exchange impact from Coca-Cola Femsa’s business in Venezuela.
Femsa holds a 20 percent stake in one of the world’s biggest brewers, Heineken. Its profit from stakes in associated companies and joint ventures jumped 83 percent.
Chief Executive Carlos Salazar said that he was “cautiously optimistic” for 2015, particularly in its core Mexico market, despite headwinds from volatile exchange rates.
Femsa said it had decided to pursue an aggressive growth strategy in retail gasoline by buying gas station franchises of Mexican state oil company Pemex, which it said a sweeping energy reform finalized last year now allows it to do.
The reform gradually liberalizes the retail gasoline sector in Mexico, allowing the creation of gas stations without Pemex branding and the sale of gasoline not purchased from the country’s long-time monopoly supplier.
Femsa said it had agreed to acquire franchises for 227 gas stations where it already has Oxxo stores.
Shares in Femsa rose 2.11 percent to 139 pesos in late morning trading on Thursday.
Shares in Femsa rose 1.38 percent in early trading on Thursday to 138.0 pesos.
Its Oxxo chain, which began in Femsa’s home base in Monterrey in northern Mexico in the 1970s, grew almost 10 percent in 2014, bringing the total number of stores to 12,853.
Coca-Cola Femsa which took on heavy debt to finance a string of acquisitions in recent years, is struggling to adapt as consumers turn away from its sugary drinks and after Mexico last year slapped a tax on such beverages.
Femsa executives told analysts on a call on Thursday that capital expenditure for 2015 would reach around $1.35 billion, with $850 million going to Coca-Cola Femsa.
Some analysts have noted that Femsa’s large cash pile, which at the end of 2014 stood at 35.641 billion pesos, including equivalents, puts it in a good position to make acquisitions.
($1 = 14.7475 pesos at end December)
Reporting by Joanna Zuckerman Bernstein and Christine Murray Editing by W Simon and Nick Zieminski