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UPDATE 2-Coca-Cola sales miss estimates, shares slip

Siddharth Cavale
Tuesday, 18 Feb 2014 | 10:31 AM ET

* Fourth-quarter adj. EPS $0.46, in line with estimates

* Sales fall 4 pct to $11.04 bln vs est $11.31 bln

* Global sales volume rises 1 pct

* Shares fall as much as 4 pct

Feb 18 (Reuters) - Coca-Cola Co's global sales volumes rose less than the company expected in the fourth quarter and fell in North America, sending its shares down as much as 4 percent.

Coke, like rival PepsiCo Inc, has been battling declining soda sales in developed markets, especially the United States, as people reach for healthier options.

Both have responded by pushing juices, teas, water and other non-carbonated beverages and investing more in marketing.

Coke bought a 10 percent stake in Keurig coffee maker Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc earlier this month, and will help develop a cold-beverage dispenser that it hopes will boost at-home consumption of fizzy drinks.

Coke said on Tuesday that global sales volumes rose 1 percent in the quarter. Volumes in North America fell 1 percent, while those in Europe grew just 1 percent as consumer spending remained subdued.

The company also said it expects unfavorable currency rates to have a 10 percent impact on operating income in the first quarter and 7 percent in the full year.

"Overall, (Coca-Cola) had relatively soft top-line results," Wells Fargo analyst Bonnie Herzog wrote in a note.

JP Morgan analyst John Faucher called the volume growth disappointing. He expected 2 percent growth.

Coke said it expected to save $1 billion annually through productivity improvements by 2016 and redirect much of this into increased advertising and marketing.

Herzog said she expects the increased productivity savings to re-accelerate earnings growth over the next several years.

PepsiCo said last week it would also look to save $1 billion annually through 2019 by closing plants and increasing automation.

Coke also said it plans to buy back up to $3 billion of shares this year, compared with the $3.5 billion in 2013.

REVENUE MISS

Coke's quarterly revenue fell 3.6 percent to $11.04 billion, in part because of the loss in revenue from its bottling operations it sold in Brazil and the Philippines last year.

Excluding the impact of foreign exchange rates and the separation of the bottling operations, revenue rose 4 percent.

Analysts on average had expected revenue of $11.31 billion in the quarter, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The company's net income fell to $1.71 billion, or 38 cents per share, in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, from $1.86 billion, or 41 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, the company earned 46 cents per share, in-line with the average analyst estimate.

Operating income fell 4 percent in the quarter, hurt by unfavorable foreign exchange rates and other items.

Coke shares, which have risen 5.6 percent in the 12 months to Friday's close, were down 3.6 percent at $37.50 in early trading. PepsiCo's shares have risen 8 percent.

Shares of both companies trade at about 17 times forward earnings.

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