By AP Business Writer
updated 2/13/2008 8:09:21 AM ET 2008-02-13T13:09:21

The Coca-Cola Co., the world's biggest beverage maker, said Wednesday its fourth-quarter profit rose 79 percent on a double-digit increase in sales as it benefited from growth in key soft-drink brands and in its water, sports drink and orange juice categories.

The Atlanta-based company said it earned $1.21 billion, or 52 cents a share, for the three months ending Dec. 31, compared to a profit of $678 million, or 29 cents a share, a year earlier, when the company took a big impairment charge at its largest bottler.

Excluding one-time items, Coca-Cola said it earned $1.36 billion, or 58 cents a share, in the quarter, ahead of the 55 cents a share analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial were expecting.

Revenue in the quarter rose 24 percent to $7.33 billion, compared to $5.93 billion recorded a year earlier.

Worldwide unit case volume was up 5 percent in the fourth quarter and 6 percent for all of 2007.

Growth in several international markets was strong in the fourth quarter. Unit case volume in Coca-Cola's Africa group increased 7 percent in the quarter. It increased 18 percent in the quarter in India and 10 percent in Latin America.

However, unit case volume in the company's key North America unit increased only 1 percent in the quarter. Unit case volume in the company's European Union group increased 2 percent in the quarter. That group's results for the fourth quarter were weighed down by a volume decline in Germany.

For all of 2007, Coca-Cola said it earned $5.98 billion, or $2.57 a share, compared to a profit of $5.08 billion, or $2.16 a share, for all of 2006. Full-year revenue rose 20 percent to $28.86 billion, compared to $24.09 billion recorded in 2006.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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