Coca-Cola profit rises on healthier drinks as volume falls short

, Bloomberg

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Coca-Cola Co., the world's largest soft-drink maker, said fourth-quarter profit rose 13 percent as sales of non-carbonated drinks in North America such as Powerade helped counter lower demand in Europe.

Net income climbed to $1.87 billion, or 41 cents a share, Atlanta-based Coca-Cola said in a statement. Excluding restructuring costs and other items, profit was 45 cents a share, compared with the 44-cent average of 13 analysts' estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

Chief executive officer Muhtar Kent is working to meet growing consumer demand for healthier beverages with products such as Simply Orange, Honest Tea and Powerade. Global volume sales rose 3 percent in the quarter, trailing the 5.4 percent growth estimated by Mark Swartzberg, an analyst at Stifel Financial in New York, who has a hold rating on the shares.

"Global diversification continues to pay dividends for the company even though you might have a little bit of softness in some regions like Europe, China or North American carbonated soft drinks," Thomas Mullarkey, an analyst for Morningstar Inc. in Chicago, said in an interview. "It's still able to grow unit case volume globally."

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