updated 2/12/2009 11:23:27 AM ET 2009-02-12T16:23:27

The Coca-Cola Co. said Thursday its fourth-quarter profit fell 18 percent as it dealt with the global recession and volatility in the currency markets.

But its adjusted earnings beat Wall Street estimates and the world’s biggest soft drink maker said its case volume grew.

“Our performance in the fourth quarter was very solid,” Chief Executive Muhtar Kent said in a statement.

The company also said it plans to accelerate its cost-savings program for $500 million in savings by 2011. “Our highly skilled management team is assertively addressing the challenges posed by the current global economic crisis,” Kent said.

The company earned $995 million, or 43 cents per share, in the quarter ended Dec. 31, down from $1.21 billion, or 52 cents per share, a year earlier.

Revenue fell 3 percent to $7.13 billion from $7.33 billion a year ago. Many global consumer products makers struggled during the quarter as the stronger dollar shrunk profits from products sold in other currencies. Coke said its operating income was dragged down 9 percent by currency comparisons.

Excluding one-time items such as a charge related to its Coca-Cola Enterprises business, Atlanta-based Coke says it earned 64 cents a share. It also had restructuring costs and asset write-downs that hurt the reported results.

Thomson Reuters said analysts expected profit of 61 cents per share on revenue of $7.52 billion. Analysts typically exclude one-time items from their estimates.

Unit case volume grew 4 percent during the quarter, with the volume of trademark Coke rising 2 percent. Last month the company launched a new “Open Happiness” global marketing campaign to renew its focus on soft drinks to appeal to consumers looking to pay less.

For all of 2008, profit fell 3 percent to $5.81 billion, or $2.49 per share, from $5.98 billion, or $2.57 per share, in 2007. Annual revenue rose 11 percent to $31.94 billion from $28.9 billion in 2007.

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