Coca-Cola Outlook Remains Cautious

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The Coca-Cola Co. (NYSE: KO) reported first-quarter results before markets opened Tuesday. For the quarter, the soft-drink maker posted adjusted diluted earnings per share (EPS) of $0.44 on revenues of $10.57 billion. In the same period a year ago, the company reported EPS of $0.46 on revenues of $11.04 billion. First-quarter results also compare to the Thomson Reuters consensus estimates for EPS of $0.44 EPS and $10.55 billion in revenues.

Currency exchange rates provided a net 2% gain on comparable net revenues and a 7% net gain on operating income for the quarter. The company said that structural changes, primarily the deconsolidation of bottling operations in the Philippines and Brazil, provided the boost to revenues.

Coke — and Pepsi — are among the most valuable consumer brands in the world. But both face serious headwinds as soda sales continue to erode.

The company’s 2014 guidance has not changed significantly. The impact of Coke’s acquisition of some of its bottlers will cost the company 1% of net revenues and operating income in 2014, all in the first half of the year. Currency exchange rates are expected to cost the company’s operating income 7% over the full year and 7% in the second quarter. Coca-Cola still expects to buy back $2.5 billion to $3 billion of its own shares.

The company’s CEO said:

While we are making meaningful progress across our five strategic priorities to restore our momentum, we are firmly committed to further advancing our growth trajectory through 2014 as we are accelerating marketing investments in our brands and focusing relentlessly on marketplace execution in partnership with our bottling partners around the world. In the near term, we are committed to delivering on our performance goals and generating increased shareowner value through improved productivity efforts and targeted investments.

Worldwide the company’s volume grew 2% in the quarter. That is an improvement from the 1% gain in the prior quarter.

Coke raised its quarterly dividend by 9% to $0.305 in February.

Overall, this is a modest improvement in the company’s efforts to regain its momentum in the market. Investors will likely react positively to the report, mainly because revenues beat estimates. But both profits and revenues were lower year-over-year, and that’s not a good sign.

Coca-Cola shares were up about 1.2% in premarket trading, at $39.21 in a 52-week range of $36.83 to $43.43. Thomson Reuters had a consensus analyst price target of around $44.10 before this report.