Wednesday, February 13, 2013

(BN) Coca-Cola Profit Rises on Healthier Drinks as Volume Trails

(Bloomberg ) Coca-Cola Co., the world's largest soft-drink maker, said fourth-quarter profit rose 13 percent as sales of non-carbonated drinks in North America such as Powerade helped counter lower demand in Europe.

Chief Executive Officer Muhtar Kent is working to meet growing consumer demand for healthier beverages with products such as Simply Orange, Honest Tea and Powerade. Global volume sales rose 3 percent in the quarter, trailing the 5.4 percent growth estimated by Mark Swartzberg, an analyst at Stifel Financial in New York, who has a hold rating on the shares.

"Global diversification continues to pay dividends for the company even though you might have a little bit of softness in some regions like Europe, China or North American carbonated soft drinks," Thomas Mullarkey, an analyst for Morningstar Inc. in Chicago, said today in an interview. "It's still able to grow unit case volume globally."

Coca-Cola is trying keep U.S. sales growing amid criticism that sweetened drinks contribute to the nation's obesity epidemic. The company last month started airing advertisements to bring attention to the importance of exercise and calories in curbing obesity. The first two-minute spot aired on cable television on Jan. 14, highlighting Coca-Cola's low- and zero- calorie products.

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