updated 2/14/2007 7:44:43 AM ET 2007-02-14T12:44:43

The Coca-Cola Co., the world's largest beverage maker, reported Wednesday a 22 percent drop in fourth-quarter profit on a solid gain in sales.

The results, when one-time items are excluded, beat Wall Street expectations.

The Atlanta-based company said it earned $678 million, or 29 cents a share, for the three months ending Dec. 31, compared to a profit of $864 million, or 36 cents a share, for the same period a year ago.

Excluding one-time items, Coca-Cola said it earned $1.23 billion, or 52 cents a share. On that basis, analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial were expecting earnings of 50 cents a share in the fourth quarter.

Revenue in the quarter rose 7 percent to $5.93 billion, compared to $5.55 billion recorded in the same period a year ago.

Total unit case volume increased 4 percent in the fourth quarter and for the year, which the company said was at the top end of its long-term growth targets. However, unit case volume in the company's key North America segment declined 2 percent in the quarter. Full-year unit case volume for North America did not change from the prior year.

International operations delivered 6 percent unit case volume growth in the quarter and for the year. The company said it saw strong growth in Latin America, China, Russia, India, Nigeria, North and West Africa and the Middle East. A sore spot was the Philippines, where unit case volume declined double-digits in the quarter as affordability and availability issues continued to weigh on performance.

For all of 2006, Coca-Cola said it earned $5.08 billion, or $2.16 a share, compared to a profit of $4.87 billion, or $2.04 a share, for the same period a year ago. Twelve-month revenue rose 4 percent to $24.09 billion, compared to $23.10 billion recorded in the previous year.

Coca-Cola continued its practice of not providing guidance for future quarters.

The results reported by Coca-Cola followed results reported Tuesday by its largest bottler, Coca-Cola Enterprises. CCE said it would cut about 3,500 jobs, or 4.7 percent of its work force, as it reported a whopping $1.7 billion loss in the fourth quarter.

Analysts said CCE has struggled with higher costs for aluminum and other commodities and a shift in consumer tastes away from carbonated beverages to juices, teas and waters.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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