Coca-Cola sales slide as coronavirus bites restaurant revenue

Soft-drink maker witnessed pantry-loading in some markets

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Coca-Cola Co. reported lower revenue for the latest quarter, reflecting growing sales for the first two months of the year before the Covid-19 pandemic escalated and resulted in reduced travel, restaurant closures and sports cancellations outside of China.

The beverage giant on Tuesday posted first-quarter sales of $8.6 billion, down 1% from a year earlier. Analysts polled by FactSet were targeting sales of $8.3 billion.

The Atlanta-based company said organic revenue, which excludes the effect of currency swings, acquisitions and divestitures, was flat.

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For the quarter, Coca-Cola reported earnings of $2.76 billion, or 64 cents a share, compared with $1.68 billion, or 39 cents a share, in the comparable quarter last year.

Adjusted earnings were 51 cents a share, ahead of the 44 cents analysts had expected.

Coca-Cola said its sales volume has fallen about 25% globally since the beginning of April, led by a decline in the company’s away-from-home channels, which represent about half of its revenue, as efforts to contain the pandemic intensified in March. The company said it witnessed pantry loading in certain markets, followed by normalized demand and an increase in e-commerce sales.

Unit-case volume outside of China was growing 3% through the end of February, Coca-Cola said.

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Unit-case volume fell 1% for the quarter, as the company said declines in the Asia Pacific region due to coronavirus offset growth in North America.

Unit-case volume for its sparkling soft drinks, which include its namesake soda drink, Diet Coke, Fanta and Sprite, fell 2% for the quarter, led by a decline in the Asia Pacific, particularly China.