Lower costs and volume gain helped lift profit, which was in line with analysts' estimates. The company gained market share in the carbonated and noncarbonated drinks markets.
Results continued a trend for the maker of Diet Coke, Sprite and Dasani water, which has relied on strength overseas to counter a weak North American market that is beset by high unemployment and low consumer confidence.
This continues to be a story about emerging market growth, Morningstar analyst Phil Gorham said.
He noted some really strong numbers in China and India, particularly when you (consider) that they are actually cycling a pretty strong quarter in '08.
Still, Coke gave a tepid outlook for the current year.
With consumers still challenged by a mixed global recovery, there again may be bumps along the way with quarter-to-quarter volatility still possible as we move through 2010, Coke Chief Executive Muhtar Kent said on a conference call.
Coca-Cola said net income attributable to shareholders rose to $1.54 billion, or 66 cents per share, from $995 million, or 43 cents per share, a year earlier.
Analysts on average were expecting 66 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Net operating revenue rose 5 percent to $7.51 billion, topping analysts' average forecast of $7.22 billion.
Sales by volume -- an important measure for investors to gauge Coke's performance -- rose 5 percent, outpacing gains of 2 percent in the third quarter, 4 percent in the second quarter and 2 percent in the first quarter.
Several analysts, including Stifel Nicolaus's Mark Swartzberg, were expecting volume to grow about 2 percent.
CHINA DRIVES GROWTH
Fourth-quarter volume rose 11 percent in the Pacific region, driven by a 29 percent increase in China, where Coke said it will continue to focus on generating double-digit annual growth rates.
The per capitas (consumption rates) are still so low in China. We're just getting started, but again, it takes a lot of investment, a lot of effort to generate a quarter of a billion cases of incremental growth a year in China, Kent said.
Quarterly volume rose 7 percent in Latin America, 1 percent in Europe and 5 percent in the company's Eurasia and Africa division.
Volume fell 1 percent in the closely watched North American market because of continued pressure on consumer spending and weak traffic to restaurants. Still, that decline was smaller than the third quarter's 4 percent decline and JP Morgan analyst John Faucher's expectation for a 2 percent decline.
Coke's rivalry with PepsiCo Inc is poised for a new turn this year, as the No. 2 soft-drink maker is about to complete its planned acquisition of its largest bottlers, Pepsi Bottling Group Inc and PepsiAmericas Inc .
Kent has repeatedly expressed his commitment to his company's decentralized, franchise bottling model.
Coke's carbonated beverage unit case volume increased 3 percent in the quarter, with international carbonated beverage unit case volume increasing 5 percent, cycling 4 percent growth in the prior year quarter.
Total noncarbonated beverage unit case volume increased 9 percent, driven by growth across a portfolio that includes juices and fruit drinks, teas and water brands. Still, beverage unit case volume jumped 14 percent internationally but was flat in North America.
Coca-Cola shares rose $1.72 to $54.37 on the New York Stock Exchange.
(Reporting by Brad Dorfman with additional reporting by Martinne Geller and Jessica Wohl; Editing by Derek Caney, Maureen Bavdek, Dave Zimmerman and Robert MacMillan)