updated 10/21/2004 4:35:10 PM ET 2004-10-21T20:35:10

The Coca-Cola Co. reported a 24 percent drop in third-quarter profit on flat revenue, but beat analysts reduced expectations that were tempered after the beverage giant’s previous warnings.

For the three months ending Sept. 30, Coke said it earned $935 million, or 39 cents a share, compared to a profit of $1.22 billion, or 50 cents a share, a year earlier.

Excluding one-time items — 11 cents in reductions due to charges and tax adjustments — Atlanta-based Coke said it earned $1.22 billion, or 50 cents a share. On that basis, analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call were expecting earnings of 47 cents a share.

Revenue in the July-September period was $5.66 billion, essentially flat with the $5.67 billion recorded a year ago.

The results by the Atlanta-based company were announced after the market closed Thursday. Shares of Coke closed 3 cents higher at $39.48 on the New York Stock Exchange. In after hours trading they gained another 37 cents.

Last month, Coke temporarily shelved its policy of not giving quarterly earnings guidance and previewed the earnings results. At the time, chief executive Neville Isdell said the world’s largest beverage maker needs to work harder, better execute its strategy and improve its culture.

Among other things, Isdell said in a speech to employees that a lack of personal accountability and internal politics have hurt the company.

For the first nine months of the year, Coke said Thursday its net income was $3.65 billion, or $1.50 a share, compared to a profit of $3.42 billion, or $1.39 a share, a year ago. Nine-month revenue was $16.71 billion, compared to $15.87 billion a year ago.

Also Thursday, Coke’s board of directors elected Irial Finan as executive vice president of the company. Separately, the board declared a regular quarterly dividend of 25 cents per common share.

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