Coke seen posting higher profit on North America growth

By @ibtimes on

Wall Street will look to see if three is a charm for Coca-Cola's North American sales when the world's top soft drink maker posts earnings on Wednesday.

Coca-Cola , whose brands include Sprite and vitaminwater, has made boosting its share of the ailing North American market a top goal, and has already seen two straight quarters of growth there after more than two years of declines.

Some analysts, including Ali Dibadj from Bernstein, expect a 1 percent rise in North American sales for the fourth quarter, compared with a 2 percent increase in the second and third quarters.

This will be the first quarter in which Coke's results include its North American bottling operations, acquired in October as a way to improve performance by cutting costs, speeding innovation and giving it more control over distribution.

We expect to hear continued confidence in the current state of the business and overall (Coke) system, and also that the early aspects of the (bottler) integration have been running on or ahead of schedule, Dibadj said in a note.

Although we don't expect to hear too much incremental news on commodity inflation, we will be interested in the degree to which Coke plans to implement higher pricing as an offset.

Dibadj has an outperform rating on Coke as well as its rivals PepsiCo Inc and Dr Pepper Snapple Group Inc .

PepsiCo will report earnings on Thursday.

Analysts on average expect Coke to report earnings of 72 cents per share on revenue of $9.75 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. The company reported earnings of 66 cents per share on revenue of $7.51 billion a year earlier.

Coke's shares, which closed at $62.87 on Tuesday, have gained 6.3 percent since early October, when it closed its bottler acquisition. It 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 rival PepsiCo.

(Reporting by Martinne Geller; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)

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