Coca-Cola Earnings More Than Triple

Coca-Cola Co.'s (KO) fourth-quarter net income more than tripled, helped by the acquisition of a bottler and selling more drinks in North America.

It was the third consecutive quarter of rising sales in the birthplace of the world's largest drink maker. It had been relying on emerging markets such as China and India for growth as weakened consumer spending and increased interest in healthier drinks sapped soda demand in developed markets.

Coca-Cola said Wednesday that it earned $5.77 billion, or $2.46 per share, for the period ended Dec. 31. That's up from $1.54 billion, or 66 cents per share, a year ago.

Removing a $5 billion gain tied to the buyout of Coca-Cola Enterprises' North American operations and other items, earnings were 72 cents per share. That met the expectations of analysts polled by FactSet.

Coca-Cola bought the North American assets of Coca-Cola Enterprises in a deal that closed Oct. 2 and was worth $3.4 billion.

The Atlanta company's fourth-quarter revenue rose 40 percent to $10.49 billion, besting Wall Street's $10.16 billion.

Coca-Cola's stock added 68 cents to $63.55 in premarket trading.

North American beverage volume increased 8 percent in the fourth quarter. Worldwide, the figure climbed 6 percent.

Juices and teas remained critical in North America. Coca-Cola said it had North American volume gains across categories such as sports drinks, energy drinks, ready-to-drink teas and coffees and enhanced water. Powerade's sales volume rose 20 percent in North America and its Simply brand 17 percent.

Gains were also reported in sodas, with Coca-Cola Zero posting double-digit volume growth for the 19th straight quarter. Coca-Cola brand saw its volume edge up 1 percent in North America. Sprite rose 4 percent and Fanta 3 percent.

Coca-Cola continued to show strength overseas, crucial because about three-quarters of the company's revenue comes from abroad. The biggest volume gain came in Eurasia and Africa, which rose 14 percent. Latin America posted a 5 percent increase, while Europe climbed 2 percent and the Pacific 1 percent.

For the year, net income surged 73 percent to $11.81 billion, or $5.06 per share, compared with $6.82 billion, or $2.93 per share, in the prior year.

Adjusted earnings were $3.49 per share.

Annual revenue improved to $35.12 billion from $31 billion.

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