Coca-Cola first-quarter income increases 14%

by Staff
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ATLANTA — Net income at The Coca-Cola Co. rose during the first quarter, even while the company’s North American unit experienced a significant drop in income.

Net income in the quarter ended March 30 was $1,262 million, equal to 54c per share on the common stock, up 14% from $1,106, or 47c per share, during the same quarter of the previous year.

"This is a strong quarter and a strong start to 2007," said Neville Isdell, chairman and chief executive officer. "You can track our progress bottle by bottle around the globe. We grew both sparkling and still beverages while efficiently allocating our resources. Our focus on driving growth, building our innovation pipeline and managing our productivity is working."

Operating income was $1,627 million, up 17% from $1,395 million during the same quarter of the previous year.

Net operating revenue also increased 17%, rising to $6,103 million from $5,226 million. The company attributed the improvement in revenue to increases in concentrate sales, structural changes from bottler acquisitions, a benefit from pricing and mix, and a positive currency impact.

Additionally, the company repurchased $676 million of its stock during the first quarter and intends to repurchase $2.5 billion to $3 billion of its stock during the whole year.

Operating income in North America was $347 million, down 11% from $388 million during the same quarter of 2006.

"We know what we need to do in North America and are carefully addressing the issues," said Muhtar Kent, president and chief operating officer. "It will take some time to achieve the results we desire in this key market, but we expect sequential improvement as we move into the second half of the year. Importantly, we achieved broad-based growth across nearly all our key international geographies, which is a testament to our ability to manage our global geographic portfolio nimbly to generate consistent returns for shareowners."

The company experienced a 6% worldwide unit case volume growth in the quarter — the highest quarterly growth rate since 2002. International business also was strong with a 9% unit case volume growth, which offset the volume decline in North America.

Sparkling beverages increased unit case volume by 5%, and trademarks Dasani, Powerade and Aquarius continued growth. Overall, the company gained or held share in sparkling beverages, juice and juice drinks, sports drinks, ready-to-drink teas and water.

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