Were Coke Drinkers Less Thirsty Last Quarter?

Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) — the world’s largest soft drink manufacturer — saw soda drinkers down fewer cans in the fourth quarter than analysts expected.

Profit increased modestly during the three-month period, helped along by growth in emerging markets. Net income rose to $1.9 billion, or 41 cents a share, from $1.8 billion, or 39 cents a share, in the year-ago quarter. But revenue increased just 3.9 percent to $11.46 billion. In comparison, analysts polled by Thomson Reuters had expected $11.53 billion.

While worldwide sales grew 3 percent, the results from individual regions were mixed. Coca-Cola’s most profitable market, North America, experienced a sales increase of 6 percent, and income rose 12 percent. Sales in Eurasia and Africa rose 5 percent, with income up 18 percent. In Latin American, sales gained 8 percent as income increased 10 percent. Pacific sales dropped 1 percent, but income rose 11 percent. However in Europe, sales fell by 6 percent, pushed down by weak consumer confidence, bad weather, and discounting…
In explaining the company’s results, Chief Executive Officer Muhtar Kent told CNBC, “There is still apprehension out there, certainly in Europe.”

For the full year, Coca-Cola generated profits of $9.2 billion, or 2.01 cents per share, on $48.03 billion in sales. Results from 2012 represented an increase from earnings of $8.8 billion, or 1.92 cents per share, on $46.55 billion in sales in the previous year.

Shares of the soda maker began trading on Tuesday down approximately 2 percent at $37.91.

The company’s competitors, PepsiCo (NYSE:PEP) and Dr. Pepper Snapple (NYSE:DPS), are also scheduled to report fourth-quarter earnings this week. While all three companies are facing rising regulatory pressure, including the New York City’s board of health September ban of sugary drinks in containers larger than 16 ounces, they have diversified. Pepsi has added Fritos, Tostitos and Ruffles chips to its offerings, and Coca-Cola has added bottled water, Powerade sports drinks, and Odwalla brand juices to appease preferences for healthier choices in North America.

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