Coca-Cola's profit up as sales grow worldwide

NEW YORK -- The Coca-Cola Co. says its net income rose 4 percent in the third quarter, as the world's biggest beverage maker expanded in in emerging markets and relied more heavily on sports drinks and teas for growth at home.

The Atlanta-based company, which makes Sprite, Fanta and Dasani water, says global sales volume also rose 4 percent during the period. But the increase was more pronounced in emerging markets, where Coca-Cola is looking to capitalize on the growing ranks of middle-class consumers.

In its flagship North American market, Coke has been evolving its stable of drinks amid changing tastes and intensifying criticism over the role sugary drinks play in fueling obesity rates.

Sales volume for the region rose 2 percent, driven by what Coke refers to as its "still beverages," such as Powerade sports drinks and Fuze teas. Coke Zero, which was introduced in 2005 as a better-tasting alternative to traditional diet sodas, saw growth of 9 percent. But overall sales volume of its sodas in the region was flat from a year ago.

In India, by contrast, sales volume for the Coca-Cola brand rose by 34 percent and overall sales volume rose 15 percent in the country.

As growth slows in developed markets, Coke is increasingly looking to expand its presence in emerging markets where its sees far greater potential. This summer, the company announced that it plans invest $5 billion in India over the next eight years. That's more than double the $2 billion it has invested since re-entering the market in 1993.

Coca-Cola said it earned $2.31 billion, or 50 cents per share, for the period. That compares with $2.22 billion, or 48 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter. Not including one-time items, the company says it earned 51 cents per share, in line with analyst expectations.

Revenue rose 1 percent to $12.34 billion, but fell shy of Wall Street expectations of $12.4 billion. The company's results were lifted by lower costs during the quarter.

Shares of Coca-Cola were up 7 cents at $38.20 in pre-market trading.