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Coca-Cola sales beat estimates; shares up

Coca-Cola Co reported higher-than-expected quarterly sales, helped by its third straight quarter of sales growth in North America.

business Updated: Feb 09, 2011 20:37 IST

Coca-Cola Co reported higher-than-expected quarterly sales, helped by its third straight quarter of sales growth in North America.

Shares of the world's largest soft drink maker rose 1.6 % on Wednesday in premarket trading after reporting its first quarterly results that include its North American bottling operations.

Both Coke and rival PepsiCo Inc acquired their North American bottlers last year as a way to improve performance by cutting costs, speeding innovation and giving them more control over distribution.

Coke said net income was $5.77 billion, or $2.46 per share, in the fourth quarter, up from $1.54 billion, or 66 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, earnings were 72 cents per share, meeting analysts' average estimate.

Net revenue rose 40 % to $10.5 billion, topping analysts' estimate of $10 billion, with 37 % of the gain related to the October bottler acquisition.

Price increases, and selling a larger proportion of higher-priced drinks, contributed 2 %age points of growth, and more than offset the fact that Coke sells most of its drinks in international markets where they often cost less than in the United States.

Coca-Cola does not give quarterly forecasts, but analysts will be keen to know how the company will manage the impact of rising costs for commodities, such as corn, the basis of a widely used sweetener.

Worldwide sales volume rose 6 % in the quarter. Excluding the distribution of some Dr Pepper Snapple Group Inc brands taken over with the bottling purchase, volume was up 5 %.

Including the benefit of those brands, Coke's volume rose 8 % in North America, 5 % in Latin America, 2 % in Europe, 14 % in the Eurasia and Africa segment and 1 % in the Pacific region.

Excluding the Dr Pepper brands, organic volume rose 3 % in North America, an acceleration from 2 % gains in the third and second quarters.

Excluding the new brands, volume of carbonated drinks rose 3 % worldwide. The flagship Coca-Cola brand saw volume rise 4 %, driven by gains of 37 % in Russia, 20 % in Turkey and 10 % in India.

Still drinks, such Powerade sports drink, Minute Maid juice and vitaminwater, saw volume rise 9 % in the quarter, fueled by gains of 7 % in North America and 11 % internationally.

Coke shares rose 98 cents to $63.85 in premarket trading from Tuesday's close of $62.87 on the New York Stock Exchange, where they have gained 6.3 % since early October, when the acquisition closed.

Coke has underperformed the wider Standard & Poor's 500 Index, which gained 15.6 % over the same period, but outpaced a 4.2 % decline by PepsiCo.