Food & Beverage

Coca-Cola says demand has been weakened by coronavirus pandemic, volume off 25% this month

Key Points
  • Coca-Cola reported adjusted first-quarter earnings of 51 cents per share on $8.60 billion.
  • The global beverage company withdrew its 2020 outlook in March.
  • Coke said global volumes have plunged 25% this month. 
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Coca-Cola posts earnings beat, withdraws annual forecast

Coca-Cola said Tuesday the closure of movie theaters, restaurants and stadiums from the coronavirus is hurting its business, with a significant impact expected on its second-quarter results.

The beverage company said its global volumes have plunged 25% since this month. 

"The ultimate impact on the second quarter and full year 2020 is unknown at this time, as it will depend heavily on the duration of social distancing and shelter-in-place mandates, as well as the substance and pace of macroeconomic recovery," Coke said. "However, the impact to the second quarter will be material."

Coke's comments came as the company reported its first-quarter results, which received a short-term lift from consumers stocking up on beverages as they prepared for an extended stay at home. About half of the company's revenue typically comes from consumers drinking at home.

Shares of the company have been fluctuating wildly in morning trading, but were recently down less than 1%.

Here's what the company reported:

  • Earnings per share: 51 cents, adjusted
  • Revenue: $8.60 billion 

Coke reported fiscal first-quarter net income of $2.78 billion, or 64 cents per share, up from $1.68 billion, or 39 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding asset impairment charges and other items, Coke earned 51 cents per share.

Net sales dropped 1% to $8.60 billion. Organic revenue, which strips out the impact of foreign currency, acquisitions and divestitures, for the quarter was flat. 

Wall Street anticipated earnings per share of 44 cents on revenue of $8.28 billion, based on a survey of analysts by Refinitiv. However, it's difficult to compare reported earnings to analyst estimates for Coke's quarter, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to hit global economies and makes earnings impact difficult to assess.

Coke said it started the year with "solid momentum," after reporting strong results in 2019. Excluding China, the company's unit case volume was growing by 3% through the end of February, before countries worldwide began enacting social distancing measures and stay-at-home orders. Coke has been drawing in customers using healthier options, like smaller cans and Zero Sugar soda, and new products under its namesake brand, like Coke Energy.

The company saw heightened demand from grocery stores and e-commerce channels for its drinks in some markets in March due to stockpiling. Products like Minute Maid and Simply orange juices have seen higher sales as more consumers eat breakfast at home, a reversal of trends before the crisis.

CEO James Quincey said that e-commerce growth rate doubled in many countries, although it still remains a relatively small part of the business.

In Latin America and Europe, the Middle East and Africa, volumes were flat for the quarter as sales took a hit in March due to the virus. Asia Pacific, where the virus hit first, reported falling volumes of 7%. North America was the sole region to see growing volumes.

Unit case volume of water, enhanced water and sports drinks grew 2% in the quarter, but the segment was the only category to report volume growth as demand in Asia Pacific shrank. 

Sparkling soft drinks' volume dropped by 2%. Its juice, dairy and plant-based drinks segment and its tea and coffee business saw volume declines of 6% during the quarter. 

Coke executives said that Chinese sales have begun to recover as the country gradually reopens and transitions into a new normal. 

The company said its full-year financial results cannot be estimated this time, citing the uncertainty around the coronavirus pandemic. The company withdrew its 2020 outlook in March. Coke previously forecast that 2020 organic revenue would grow by 5% and adjusted earnings per share would increase by 7% to $2.25.

Coke also said Tuesday that a stronger dollar will hurt its second-quarter revenue by 4% to 5%. 

The company is cutting costs wherever possible, including pulling back on marketing spending. Executives said that the company has no plans to cut its dividend, but will likely not make any significant acquisitions this year or repurchase its stock.

"We've been through challenging times before as a company, and we believe we're well positioned to manage through and emerge stronger," Quincey said in the earnings statement. 

Read the full earnings report here.