Coca-Cola profit beats as North America soda sales pick up

Coke KO's Q4 earnings, beats estimates
Coke KO's Q4 earnings, beats estimates

Coca-Cola reported a better-than-expected profit as sales in North America, its biggest market, rose for the first time in four quarters, offsetting the impact of a stronger dollar on its overseas business.

Shares of the world's largest beverage maker rose 3.4 percent in premarket trading. (Click here to get the latest quotes for Coke.)

Coke's sales in North America have declined or remained flat for the last three quarters as U.S. consumers opt for healthier beverages and shift away from diet sodas due to concerns over artificial sweeteners.

North American sales rose 2 percent to $5.37 billion in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, accounting for about half of total sales.

Analysts say U.S. consumers are still drinking less soda but are paying more for it.

Low gasoline prices and a brighter job market have encouraged many consumers to dig a little deeper into their pockets. U.S. consumer confidence is at its highest in more than seven years, according to a report released in January.

Coke said in October it would cut costs and announced a timeline for selling its lower-margin bottling operations.

"We continue to see 2015 as a transition year as the benefits from the announced initiatives will take time to materialize amidst an uncertain and volatile macroeconomic environment," Chief Executive Muhtar Kent said on Tuesday.

The world's largest beverage maker said net income attributable to shareholders fell to $770 million, or 17 cents per share, in the fourth quarter from $1.71 billion, or 38 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, the company earned 44 cents per share.

Net operating revenue fell 2 percent to $10.87 billion.

Analysts on average were expecting profit of 42 cents per share on revenue of $10.76 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.