Coca-Cola sales hold up in crisis struck Europe

COCA-COLA’S quarterly profits came in slightly ahead of forecasts yesterday – and sales in Europe stabilised, after falling at the end of last year.

The world’s largest soft-drink maker said net income for the quarter was $1.75bn (£1.14bn), down from $2.05bn a year earlier.

Earnings were hurt by a calendar shift that resulted in two fewer selling days in the quarter compared with last year.

Revenue slipped one per cent to $11.04bn, dented by currency exchange rates and sales lost through the refranchising of some other bottler assets. Sales by volume rose four per cent.

By region, volume rose one per cent in North America, four per cent in Latin America, three per cent in the Pacific region and 15 per cent in Eurasia and Africa. Volume was flat in Europe, an improvement on 2012.

“It was a good start to the year,” said Edward Jones analyst Jack Russo.

The better-than-expected earnings came as the drinks group announced a deal to unload some distribution territory to five independent US bottlers.

The move by the maker of Sprite, Fanta and the eponymous cola drink is “a major step in the transformation of its US production and distribution,” said Stifel Nicolaus analyst Mark Swartzberg.

The agreements are subject to the parties reaching definitive deals by the end of 2013, with closings expected in 2014. Financial terms were not disclosed, nor was Coke’s intended use of the proceeds.