Coca-Cola (KO) Earnings Plummet, Global Sales Rise

As usual, Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO) beat earnings forecasts today despite a 71% year-to-year drop-off in profits.

The world’s leading soft drink company managed $1.65 billion in earnings, or 72 cents a share, in the fourth quarter. That’s down substantially from last year’s fourth-quarter haul of $5.77 billion, or $2.46 a share.

But excluding items that included a large gain a year ago from the purchase of new bottling operations, Coke’s earnings were 79 cents a share, narrowly edging out consensus analyst expectations of 77 cents a share.

World-wide, Coke’s sales continued to grow. The company’s $11 billion in revenue was up 5.2% from the same quarter a year ago, with 20% growth in India and 10% growth in China. North American sales increased 1%, better than the 1% decline some expected. Those improvements were viewed as promising given the weak global economy.

Coca-Cola’s stock is up slightly in morning trading on the earnings beat. The stock had jumped 0.8% to $68.60 a share as of 10:03 this morning.

More good news for Coke shareholders: the company increased its quarterly dividend by 23% to 16 cents a share.

Coke’s rival, PepsiCo (NYSE: PEP), is scheduled to announce its earnings on Thursday. Pepsi is expected to announce about $500 million in cost cuts to make room for a stepped-up marketing program intended to close the gap between it and Coke.

Coke currently has a market cap of $156.6 billion. Pepsi’s market cap is $104 billion.

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