Coca-Cola sales beat estimates as it gains share

By @ibtimes on

Coca-Cola Co reported higher-than-expected quarterly sales, as it gained market share and also saw growth in each of its major markets for the first time in years.

Shares of the world's largest soft-drink maker rose 1.5 percent.

The results on Wednesday are Coke's first to include its North American bottling operations, and improvement in the company's home region was a sign of success for that acquisition.

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.

Every major market grew at the same time for the first time in years, said Credit Suisse analyst Carlos Laboy, adding that the growth in the company's developed markets of North America, Europe and Japan was the strongest seen in many years. The fine print validates the company's ability to grow the core Coca-Cola brand and innovate.

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, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Net revenue jumped 40 percent to $10.5 billion, topping analysts' estimate of $10 billion, with the bulk of the gain due to the October bottler acquisition.

Price increases, and selling a larger proportion of higher-priced drinks, contributed 2 percentage 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.

(For graphic, click http://r.reuters.com/sys87r)

GAINS IN ALL AREAS

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

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

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

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

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

Coke shares rose 97 cents to $63.84 in morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange, where they had gained 6.3 percent through Tuesday since early October, when the acquisition closed.

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

(Reporting by Martinne Geller; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn, Dave Zimmerman)

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