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Coca-Cola Profit Falls 22% On Charge, But Beats Forecasts

CNBC.com
Wednesday, 14 Feb 2007 | 1:08 PM ET

Coca-Cola on Wednesday said fourth-quarter net profit fell 22%, hurt by an $2.9 billion impairment charge at its largest bottler, but results exceeded analysts' expectations.

Net income at the world's largest soft-drink maker fell to $678 million, or 29 cents per share, from $864 million, or 36 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding the 23-cent-a-share impairment charge, Coca-Cola earned 52 cents a share. That's up from 46 cents a share in the year-ago period and ahead of the 50 cents analysts were expecting, according to a Thomson Financial poll.

Revenues for the quarter gained 7% to $5.93 billion, topping expectations of $5.78 billion. Total unit case volume, a key metric in the beverage industry, rose 4%.

"KO reported another good quarter, the fifth or sixth in a row that slightly beat the Street EPS consensus while also delivering unit volume growth at or above the top of end of its long-term target," Stifel Nicolaus analyst Mark Swartzberg wrote in a research note.

The company also said it plans to repurchase between $2.5 billion and $3 billion in stock in 2007.

"We continue to demonstrate that we can be successful growing sparkling beverages, while expanding our beverage portfolio," Coca-Cola Chairman and CEO Neville Isdell said in a press release.

Case volume in the key North American market fell 2% for the quarter, due to weak sparkling beverage and warehouse-delivered water sales.

International operations' unit case volume rose 6%. Coke said it saw strong growth across Latin America and in key emerging markets, including China, Russia, India, Nigeria, North and West Africa and the Middle East.

The results came one day after Coca-Cola Enterprises, which is about 35% owned by Coca-Cola Co., reported a $1.71 billion quarterly loss and said it planned to cut 3,500 jobs, or 5% of its global work force.

In recent years, Coke and rival PepsiCo have been trying to expand their product lines as consumers in many developed markets shift from sugary soft drinks in favor of healthier beverages, such as water and orange juice.

Last week PepsiCo, the world's No. 2 soft drink company, reported a 61% rise in quarterly profit, but its shares fell on weak demand for its Gatorade sports drink and a conservative forecast.

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