Coca-Cola Co profit slips as US soda sales flag

Feb 19 2014, 10:10 IST
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Coca-Cola Co's quarterly global sales volumes rose less than the company estimated. Coca-Cola Co's quarterly global sales volumes rose less than the company estimated.
SummaryCoca-Cola, like rival PepsiCo Inc, has been battling declining soda sales in developed markets.

Coca-Cola Co's quarterly global sales volumes rose less than the company estimated and fell in North America, but the company said it expects to restore sales momentum in 2014.

Coca-Cola shares fell as much as 4.3 percent - their most in seven months - making the stock the biggest drag on the Dow Jones Industrials index on Tuesday.

Coca-Cola, like rival PepsiCo Inc, has been battling declining soda sales in developed markets, especially the United States, as people reach for healthier options.

Both have responded by focusing more on juices, teas, water and other non-carbonated beverages and increasing marketing spending.

Coca-Cola bought a 10 percent stake in Keurig coffee maker Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc earlier this month, and will help develop a cold-beverage dispenser that it hopes will boost at-home consumption of fizzy drinks.

Coca-Cola said on Tuesday that global sales volumes rose 1 percent in the quarter and 2 percent for the full year. Volumes in North America fell 1 percent in the quarter, while those in Europe grew just 1 percent as consumer spending remained subdued.

Chief Executive Muhtar Kent said the company would restore its sales momentum in 2014 by increasing investments in advertising, adding that U.S. sales were expected to improve slightly this year.

The company reported flat net revenue in North America in the fourth quarter.

Coca-Cola led the U.S. carbonated soft drink market in 2012, with a market share of about 42 percent, according to industry newsletter Beverage Digest. Pepsi had a 28.1 percent share.

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"Overall, (Coca-Cola) had relatively soft top-line results," Wells Fargo analyst Bonnie Herzog wrote in a note.

However, RBC Capital Markets analyst Nik Modi was positive on the company's full-year prospects.

Modi said he expects Coca-Cola sales volumes to improve as the company pumps more money into marketing in the United States than Pepsi.

Coca-Cola said it expected to save $1 billion annually through productivity improvements by 2016 and redirect much of this into increased advertising and marketing.

The company raised its savings target to $1 billion from $600 million due to higher bottling cost savings.

Herzog said she expects the increased productivity savings to re-accelerate earnings growth over the next several years.

Janney Capital Markets analyst Jonathan Feeney said he expected growth in 2014 to be driven by reinvestments, pricing actions and new products such as Coca-Cola Life, a drink sweetened with sugar and stevia.

PepsiCo has also been cutting costs in the face of weak soda sales in North America. The

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