Coca-Cola Profit Profit Increases 10% on Overseas Gains

The company has been courting international drinkers as their economies improve by pitching its drinks as an affordable luxury.

Coca-Cola Co.'s first-quarter profit climbed 19% as the world's largest drink maker continued to see rapid growth overseas. That offset persistent weakness in the U.S. as shoppers skimped on purchases of soda, water, juices and teas.

The results were weaker than analyst expectations. The company earned $1.61 billion, or 69 cents per share, in the quarter ending April 2. That's up from earnings of $1.35 billion, or 58 cents a share, in the same period last year.

Revenue rose 5% to $7.53 billion.

Worldwide case volume rose 3%, with international case volume growing faster at 5%. The company has been courting international drinkers as their economies improve by pitching its drinks as an affordable luxury. In North America, shoppers cut back on such purchases in the recession.

Eurasia and Africa led international growth, with volume up 11%. India's volume grew 29% and Turkey's 18%.

Elsewhere, Brazil's volume gained 12%. The flagship Coca-Cola brand posted double-digit growth in Russia, Egypt, Brazil, India, Vietnam and the Philippines.

About three-fourths of Coca-Cola's revenue came from outside North America in the quarter. North America is the world's biggest soft drink market, but it has been weak as people shift to juices and teas.

Total case volume including soft drinks and juices fell 2% in the quarter. But soft drink volume declined 1%, less steep than previous quarters. The company credited its marketing campaigns for the Super Bowl and the Winter Olympics.

Sales of uncarbonated drinks such as water, juices and teas fell 2% in North America. People have been switching to those drinks because of health concerns, but the company noted people are cutting back on these purchases because of the recession.

Uncarbonated drinks grew 8 percent worldwide, driven by a 12% increase outside North America.

Also April 20, Coca-Cola named North American President Steve Cahillane to lead a new business unit called Coca-Cola Refreshments. It will incorporate the newly acquired Coca-Cola Enterprises North American bottling operations, North American food service, the Minute-Maid and Odwalla juice businesses and North American supply-chain operations.

The appointment will take effect after Coca-Cola closes on the acquisition of the bottler. That's expected in the fourth quarter.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

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