By Dave Sebastian
Coca-Cola Co. reported higher sales in the latest quarter as demand for its namesake drinks grew, beating analysts' estimates.
Fourth-quarter sales rose 16% to $9.07 billion from a year earlier, ahead of the $8.88 billion analysts polled by FactSet had expected.
The beverage giant on Thursday said organic revenue, which excludes currency swings, acquisitions and divestitures, grew 7%. Global unit case volume increased 3% for the quarter, led by growth in emerging markets.
Sales of its sparkling soft drinks, which include its namesake soda drink, Diet Coke, Fanta and Sprite, grew 3% for the quarter, led by growth in China, Brazil and Southeast Asia.
Sales of water, enhanced water and sports drinks were up 2%, and tea and coffee volume grew 4%.
Coke has pushed to roll out new flavors and diversify its offerings in recent years. The company late last year launched a new flavored seltzer brand, Aha, with caffeinated options. It was a late entrant to the category that includes market-leading bubbly water LaCroix, which has lost market share as new drinks crowd store shelves. PepsiCo Inc. in 2018 launched a competitor called Bubly.
Unit case volume, or the number of 24 8-ounce servings of finished beverage sold, in North America was flat for the quarter, though the metric for its water, enhanced water and sports drinks grew 3%. The Coca-Cola Zero Sugar beverage grew by a double-digit percentage, the company said.
In Europe, the Middle East and Africa, unit case volume grew 4%, driven by growth in Nigeria, North Africa, Turkey and central and Eastern Europe. But quarterly operating income in the region fell 14%, or 5% on an adjusted basis, due to reduced bottler-inventory levels related to Brexit, Coke said.
In Asia Pacific, unit case volume grew 2%, though sales in China softened as growth in sparkling-soft-drink sales was offset by the downsizing of certain water and juice products.
The Atlanta-based company recorded earnings of $2.04 billion, or 47 cents a share, compared with $870 million, or 20 cents a share, in the same period a year before.
Adjusted earnings were 44 cents a share, meeting analysts' expectations.
For 2020, the company expects organic sales to grow about 5%. It sees adjusted earnings of about $2.25 a share for the year.
Shares rose 1.4% in premarket trading.
Write to Dave Sebastian at email@example.com