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An employee arranges cartons of Coca-Cola at a store in Alexandria, Va., in this file photo. (KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS)
An employee arranges cartons of Coca-Cola at a store in Alexandria, Va., in this file photo. (KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS)

Coca-Cola profit rises on strong sales Add to ...

Coca-Cola Co. reported fourth-quarter revenue slightly below analysts’ estimates, hurt by a weaker-than-expected performance in Europe.

The world’s largest soft drink maker, with brands such as Sprite, Fanta and Minute Maid, on Tuesday said revenue rose 4 per cent to $11.46-billion. Analysts were expecting $11.53-billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Worldwide sales volume climbed 3 per cent, but volume in Europe fell 5 per cent. JPMorgan analyst John Faucher, for example, was expecting volume to rise 3.5 per cent, with a decline of just 1 per cent in Europe.

“There is still apprehension out there, certainly in Europe,” Coca-Cola chief executive officer Muhtar Kent said in an interview on CNBC.

Volume fell 5 per cent in Germany, more than some analysts had expected. Volume declined 4 per cent in China, also weaker than some expected, with the company blaming issues including the economic slowdown.

“I think they’re diverse enough so that some things go up and some things go down and they manage OK,” said Bernstein Research analyst Ali Dibadj. “You certainly wish they were firing on all cylinders, but this environment doesn’t necessarily allow that to happen.”

Coca-Cola does not give financial forecasts but said that for the full year 2013 it expects $100-million in increased commodity costs related to sweeteners, juices, metals and plastic.

Coke is also seeing tougher competition from PepsiCo Inc , which is working hard to improve its North American beverage business. Pepsi has increased marketing spending with a focus on core brands like Pepsi-Cola, and analysts say the renewed effort is working.

“Unfortunately, given that volumes aren’t that robust, the success of one player certainly has a negative impact on the success of the other,” Dibadj said.

PepsiCo is due to report quarterly earnings on Thursday.

Coke said fourth-quarter net income was $1.87-billion, or 41 cents per share, up from $1.66-billion, or 36 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding restructuring charges and other one-time items, earnings were 45 cents per share, topping analysts’ average estimate by a penny.

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