Coke revenue misses estimates as soda sales slow

downloadFor the 120-odd years that the Coca-Cola Company has been around, the soda business has been a solid, profitable industry. Sugary drinks are delicious, refreshing, and (especially when mixed with caffeine) addictive – they sell themselves. But in the last few years, the soda biz has begun to experience adversity thanks to the global obesity epidemic. People have noticed an interesting correlation between drinking sugary drinks and being morbidly obese, and they’re starting to do something about it. Soda sales are declining in the developed world, and even in emerging markets the growth in soda sales has slowed dramatically as people switch away from sugary drinks to things like water, iced tea, and fruit juices (which are, themselves, just sugary drinks, but that’s another story). The consequence of all this has been that Coca-Cola sales and revenues have fallen, along with its share price. The company is trying to turn things around by focusing on new drinks like bottled water, but the tide of new drink preferences may yet leave Coca-Cola adrift. – FD

From Reuters:

* Fourth-quarter adj. EPS $0.46, in line with estimates

* Sales fall 4 pct to $11.04 bln vs est $11.31 bln

* Global sales volume rises 1 pct

* Shares fall as much as 4 pct

Coca-Cola Co’s quarterly global sales volumes rose less than the company estimated and fell in North America, but the company said it expects to restore sales momentum in 2014.

Coca-Cola shares fell as much as 4.3 percent – their most in seven months – making the stock the biggest drag on the Dow Jones Industrials index on Tuesday.

Coca-Cola, like rival PepsiCo Inc, has been battling declining soda sales in developed markets, especially the United States, as people reach for healthier options.

Both have responded by focusing more on juices, teas, water and other non-carbonated beverages and increasing marketing spending.

Coca-Cola bought a 10 percent stake in Keurig coffee maker Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc earlier this month, and will help develop a cold-beverage dispenser that it hopes will boost at-home consumption of fizzy drinks.

Coca-Cola said on Tuesday that global sales volumes rose 1 percent in the quarter and 2 percent for the full year. Volumes in North America fell 1 percent in the quarter, while those in Europe grew just 1 percent as consumer spending remained subdued.

Chief Executive Muhtar Kent said the company would restore its sales momentum in 2014 by increasing investments in advertising, adding that U.S. sales were expected to improve slightly this year.

The company reported flat net revenue in North America in the fourth quarter.

Coca-Cola led the U.S. carbonated soft drink market in 2012, with a market share of about 42 percent, according to industry newsletter Beverage Digest. Pepsi had a 28.1 percent share.


“Overall, (Coca-Cola) had relatively soft top-line results,” Wells Fargo analyst Bonnie Herzog wrote in a note.

However, RBC Capital Markets analyst Nik Modi was positive on the company’s full-year prospects.

Modi said he expects Coca-Cola sales volumes to improve as the company pumps more money into marketing in the United States than Pepsi.

Coca-Cola said it expected to save $1 billion annually through productivity improvements by 2016 and redirect much of this into increased advertising and marketing.

The company raised its savings target to $1 billion from $600 million due to higher bottling cost savings.

Herzog said she expects the increased productivity savings to re-accelerate earnings growth over the next several years.

Janney Capital Markets analyst Jonathan Feeney said he expected growth in 2014 to be driven by reinvestments, pricing actions and new products such as Coca-Cola Life, a drink sweetened with sugar and stevia.

PepsiCo has also been cutting costs in the face of weak soda sales in North America. The company said last week it would look to save $1 billion annually through 2019 by closing plants and increasing automation.


Coca-Cola’s quarterly revenue fell 3.6 percent to $11.04 billion, in part because of the loss in revenue from its bottling operations it sold in Brazil and the Philippines last year.

Excluding the impact of foreign exchange rates and the separation of the bottling operations, revenue rose 4 percent.

Coca-Cola said it expects unfavorable currency rates to have a 10 percent impact on operating income in the first quarter and 7 percent in the full year.

Analysts on average had expected revenue of $11.31 billion in the quarter, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The company’s net income fell to $1.71 billion, or 38 cents per share, in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, from $1.86 billion, or 41 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, the company earned 46 cents per share, in-line with the average analyst estimate.

Operating income fell 4 percent in the quarter, hurt by unfavorable foreign exchange rates and other items.

Coca-Cola shares, which rose 5.6 percent in the 12 months to Friday’s close, were down 3.8 percent at $37.43 in midday trading. PepsiCo‘s shares have risen 8 percent in the past year.

Shares of both companies trade at about 17 times forward earnings.

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