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Disappointing sales, weak outlook hit Coca-Cola

February 19, 2014

NEW YORK, USA: Soft-drink manufacturer Coca-Cola reported a dip in fourth-quarter profits after lower-than-expected sales while its outlook for the rest of this year has disappointed analysts.

The US beverage manufacturer said weak economic conditions had hurt consumption, leading to an overall 3.6% decline in global revenues in the October to December period.

Sales in North America, which account for nearly 50% of revenues, slid 4.2% to US$5.27bn. Sales in the region are under pressure in part because more and more consumers are avoiding high-calorie beverages. The Coca-Cola Company expressed confidence in its long-term prospects despite the lack-lustre fourth quarter.

"While we move forward in what remains an uncertain global economy, the long-term fundamentals driving our business and industry have not changed," said chief executive Muhtar Kent.

Demand remains strong

"A rising middle class, greater urbanisation and increasing personal consumption expenditures in markets around the world will continue to drive greater demand for our beverages," he said.

Net income for the fourth-quarter came in at US$1.7bn, down 8.4% down from last year's level of US$1.9bn.

Quarterly earnings translated into 46 cents per share, matching expectations. Revenues were US$11.04bn, down 3.6% from a year ago and below the US$11.31bn forecast by the company. Annual earnings of US$8.6bn were 4.8% lower than the US$9.0bn in 2012.

Morgan Stanley said Coca-Cola's quarterly volume growth of 1% missed the expected increase of 3%, with most regions under-performing.

Currency fluctuations dragged down operating earnings by 4% for 2013. The company projected that currency effects would drag down this year's operating income by 7%, with a 10% reduction in the first quarter.

Analysts also expressed disappointment at Coca-Cola's projection that it would spend between US$2.5bn and US$3.0bn in the current year on share repurchases,. This is down from the US$3.5bn it spent last year.

Coca-Cola said it plans US$1bn in spending cuts and this money will be used to invest in additional marketing initiatives.

Source: AFP via I-Net Bridge

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