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

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

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.

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 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 percent 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)