Coca-Cola revises financial targets lower

/ Source: The Associated Press

Coca-Cola Co. will damp growth prospects for next year and outline plans to increase "marketing and innovation expenses" by as much as $400 million on an annual basis when management speaks to analysts and investors later Thursday.

The beverage giant continuing weak results in key markets such as North America, Germany and the Philippines, as well as the ramp up in spending, mean the company won't meet new long-term targets of annual operating income growth of 6 to 8 percent and earnings per share growth in the high single digits in 2005. The company did say it expects full-year 2004 earnings to match earlier estimates of $1.88 to $1.90 per share. The company said that beyond 2004 it was sticking to its current policy of not providing specific annual or quarterly earnings per share guidance.

In addition to the new targets for operating income and per-share earnings, the company "its revised its annual volume target is three to four percent growth over time."

Coca-Cola said in a press release that "to realize the full potential of its brands and generate sustainable growth rates," chairman and CEO Neville Isdell "has concluded that the company needs to increase annual investment levels on a permanent basis." Isdell has called for a "permanent increase" in spending in such areas as global brand recognition, emerging high-growth market opportunities and the company's innovation pipeline of $350 million to $400 million.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call are expecting the company to earn $2.08 per share in 2005 on revenue of $23.15 billion. The per share estimates would represent an increase of 9.5 to 10.6 percent from the company's current forecast for 2004 earnings.