Coca-Cola 4Q Profit Soars, Matching Views

Boosted by stronger-than-expected sales and recent acquisitions, Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) posted an in-line jump in fourth-quarter profits on Wednesday.

Atlanta-based Coca-Cola said it earned $5.77 billion, or $2.46 a share, last quarter, compared with a profit of $1.54 billion, or 66 cents a share, a year earlier.

Excluding one-time items, it earned 72 cents a share, meeting expectations from analysts on Wall Street.

Sales soared 40% to $10.5 billion, solidly surpassing the $10 billion shareholders had been expecting. About 37% of that gain can be chalked up to Coca-Cola’s acquisitions, namely its buyout of bottler Coca-Cola Enterprises last year.

Encouraged by the sales beat, shareholders bid Coca-Cola’s stock up 2.35% to $64.35 ahead of Wednesday’s open. The stock had been down more than 4% as of Tuesday’s close.

“Together with our global bottling partners, we are decisively executing our 2020 Vision, and I am pleased that we met or exceeded all of our long-term growth targets for both the quarter and the year, CEO Muhtar Kent said in a statement. “While we recognize that challenges remain in our worldwide marketplace, we are confident that we are advancing our global momentum to deliver long-term sustainable growth and value for our shareowners.”

Coca-Cola reported a 6% jump in global unit case volume, driven by a 14% leap in Eurasia & Africa case volume. In other regions, North American unit case volume grew by 8%, Latin American volume was up 5% and European volume inched up just 2%.

Coca-Cola also said it expects to buy back about $2 billion to $2.5 billion of its stock over the year. The company also said it remains “on track” to achieve $500 million in annualized cost savings by 2011.