The Coca-Cola Company has reported fourth quarter earnings that managed to beat Wall Street’s expectations. For the final three months of the year, Coke earned $1.24 billion, or 28 cents per share. After excluding one-time items, it earned 38 cents per share. That was a penny more than Wall Street analysts had expected. Most of the gain came from higher prices for its products.
Total revenue fell 8 percent to $10 billion in the period, compared with $10.9 billion in the same period a year earlier. However, that was better than the $9.86 billion analysts expected. Coca-Cola said foreign currency translation had sliced 10 percentage points off its per-share earnings in the fourth quarter. For the full year, Coca-Cola’s sales fell to $44.3 billion, down 4 percent, compared with $46 billion a year earlier. Profit for the year rose to $7.4 billion, a 3 percent gain over $7.1 billion in 2014.
Coca-Cola’s global soda volume rose in the fourth quarter. The world’s largest beverage maker reported that worldwide unit case volume for soda rose 2 percent in the final three months of last year. Non-carbonated drinks such as bottled water rose 6 percent.
Diet Coke continued to suffer declines. Coke executives have said Diet Coke’s decline has been largely a U.S. issue. In the quarter, the company reported a 5 percent drop in Diet Coke sales volume for the region, while regular Coke sales were flat. Diet and light sodas are currently outperforming regular sodas overseas.
During the last quarter of 2015, sales for Coca-Cola continued to shift toward noncarbonated drinks. Volume sales for noncarbonated drinks like bottled water, tea and juice, grew at three times the rate of sales for carbonated drinks. Muhtar Kent, chief executive of Coca-Cola, said in a news release, “Our fourth-quarter performance was a testament to the action we took as the company continued to deliver solid pricing and unit case volume growth.” Coke shares have declined nearly 1 percent since the beginning of the year.