Coca-Cola Thrives Despite Volatile Environment: CEO
Coca-Cola has put out "clear targets" for long-term growth, and the company has "met or exceed" them three years in a row, CEO Muhtar Kent told CNBC on Tuesday, after the soft drink giant released better-than-expected fourth quarter earnings but missed on revenues.
"In a world where you have this kind of volatility," he said, "to be able to deliver results of growth in earnings … cash … market share … and volumes, we're pleased."
Coca-Cola posted fourth-quarter earnings excluding items of 45 cents per share, up from 40 cents a share in the year-earlier period. Analysts had expected Coca-Cola to report per-share profits of 44 cents on $11.53 billion in revenue, according to a Thomson Reuters survey. Revenue was slightly short of those estimates, though still rising to $11.46 billion from $11.04 billion a year ago.
(Read More: CNBC's Earnings Central)
Kent told "Squawk Box" that the performance was solid, given worldwide economic uncertainty. "We have put out some clear targets for our long-term growth model. Case volume at 3 to 4 percent. Revenues at 5 to 6 percent. Operating income at high-single digits at 6 to 8 percent. And we met and exceeded those targets three years in a row, including this part quarter."
Worldwide unit case volume, which measures sales without the impact of price and currency fluctuations, rose 3 percent, compared with analysts' expectations of a 3.9 percent increase.
But Kent insisted, "There is no case volume issue," adding that quarterly and full-year case volumes were inline with the company's growth targets.
By region, North America unit case volume rose 1 percent, compared with expectations of a 1.8 percent increase, boosted by its Powerade sports drinks and bottled teas.
Overall volume in Europe declined 5 percent, which the company blamed on the uncertain economy, bad weather and price competition.
In China, where U.S. companies of all stripes are looking for growth, volume declined 4 percent, after growing 10 percent in the year-ago quarter. The company said business in the region was impacted by a slowing economy, bad weather and a later Chinese New Year.
Kent said the company faced challenges, "especially in the second half of last year," as China strived to become less export-dependent.
"There are some challenges during the transition which we have experienced. … But we feel that long term, China is an incredible opportunity — continuing to be an incredible opportunity."
—Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story reported that analysts had expected Coca-Cola to report earnings of 43 cents a share. The expectation was for 44 cents a share, according to a Thomson Reuters survey.