ATLANTA — Despite net income falling 17% in the fiscal year ended Dec. 31, 2014, the Coca-Cola Co. will keep spending in 2015, investing in media promotions as well as partnerships with Monster Beverage Corp. and Keurig Green Mountain. The net income drop was even greater, down 55%, for the fourth quarter.
“Two thousand fifteen will be a transition year for the company as we implement our new operating model and our incremental media investments in both 2014 and 2015 take time to pay off in full,” said Muhtar Kent, chairman and chief executive officer of Atlanta-based Coca-Cola, in a Feb. 10 conference call to discuss earnings.
Coca-Cola expects the partnerships with Keurig and Monster to pay off in more consumption occasions.
“Today, the average household globally consumes 26 beverages per day, and of these 26 beverages, only 1.4 are Coca-Cola Co. brands,” Mr. Kent said. “Our opportunity to capture more beverage occasions is just immense. For that reason, we’ve announced strategic investment in Keurig Green Mountain and Monster Beverage Corp. Both of these investments underscore not only our ability to adapt to changing consumer trends, but also our commitment to accelerate innovation.”
Howard Telford, senior beverages analyst for Euromonitor, gave insight on Coca-Cola’s need to diversify on Feb. 9, the day before the company gave fiscal-year results.
“Coca-Cola already has a wide range of juice brands and waters that could be winners for the company, but they must continue to develop and innovate with new health and wellness angles within its brands,” he said. “A key growth area could be functional and energy drinks. Besides the company’s Monster Energy equity investment late last year, what other innovation plans do they have in store?”
Coca-Cola anticipates closing the transaction with Monster Beverage Corp. at the beginning of the second quarter, said Kathy Waller, chief financial officer of the Coca-Cola Co., in the Feb. 10 conference call.
“Note that this is slightly later than our initial expectations of the first quarter, due to various closing considerations,” Ms. Waller said.
She said Coca-Cola’s marketing expenditures grew high-single digits in the fourth quarter, resulting in mid-single-digit growth for the fiscal year.
Mr. Kent, to point out the importance of marketing, talked about two Coca-Cola brands that recently surpassed $1 billion in annual sales.
“Gold Peak, a premium tea brand in the United States, benefited from great marketing, strong media and stepped-up execution to achieve this status,” he said. “Furthermore, Fuze Tea, our popular mainstream tea brand, now available in nearly 40 markets around the world, reached this status in less than three years, demonstrating the strength of our systems, marketing and executional capabilities.”
Coca-Cola in fiscal year 2014 had net income of $7,098 million, equal to $1.60 per share on the common stock, which was down from $8,584 million, or $1.90 per share, in fiscal year 2013. Net operating revenues of $45,998 million were down 2% from $46,854 million. In 2015, Coca-Cola expects full-year comparable currency neutral earnings-per-share growth to be mid-single digits, roughly in line with e.p.s. growth in fiscal 2014.
“In 2014, we invested significantly in both our brands and in incremental growth opportunities,” Mr. Kent said. “We substantially increased our media investments in markets and categories where our media was underfunded relative to the market opportunity, where we had the right price/pack channel architectures and where we had clear executional alignment with our bottlers.”
Unit case volume was up 2% for fiscal year 2014. Coca-Cola, Sprite and Fanta drove growth in sparkling beverages, which was up 1% in unit case volume. In still beverages, unit case volume was up 4% for the year. Growth in ready-to-drink tea, sports drinks and packaged water was offset partially by a decline in juice and juice drinks.
In North America, fiscal-year income of $1,633 million was down 33% from $2,434 million in the previous fiscal year. Unit case volume in North America was flat, with sparkling beverages down 1% and still beverages up 1%. The Coca-Cola brand grew slightly in the United States.
Fiscal-year income rose 1% to $1,125 million in Eurasia and Africa. Income fell in other areas, including down 1% to $2,892 million in Europe, down 21% to $2,319 million in Latin America, and down 1% to $2,464 million in Asia Pacific.
Mr. Telford spoke about emerging markets in his Euromonitor insight.
“While Coke dominates the emerging markets, it has seen increased competition from domestic players, with global competitors such as PepsiCo also looking to grow in these regions as well,” he said. “If the company wants to hit its 2020 targets, BRIC growth and development of major secondary markets such as Indonesia and Vietnam are essential.”In the fourth quarter, Coca-Cola had net income of $770 million, or 17c per share, which was down from $1,710 million, or 38c per share, in the previous year’s fourth quarter. Net operating revenues fell 2% to $10,872 million in the fourth quarter.