The Coca-Cola Co., the world’s largest beverage maker, reported a 30 percent increase in fourth-quarter earnings, but said it was not satisfied with only modest growth in revenue and unit case volume.
The results, announced before the market opened Wednesday, beat Wall Street expectations.
For the three months ending Dec. 31, Atlanta-based Coke said it earned $1.20 billion, or 50 cents a share, compared to a profit of $927 million, or 38 cents a share, a year ago.
Excluding one-time items, Coke said it earned $1.12 billion, or 46 cents a share. That beat the consensus forecast of 40 cents a share of analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call.
Revenue in the quarter was $5.26 billion, a 2 percent increase from the $5.18 billion recorded a year ago.
Despite the results, chief executive Neville Isdell said he wasn’t happy. He noted the slim revenue growth as well as worldwide unit case volume growth of only 2 percent for all of 2004.
“We are not satisfied with our performance in 2004,” Isdell said. “By most measures, we did not perform to our potential or the expectations of our shareowners. On the whole, I believe 2004 will be remembered as the beginning of an important transition for The Coca-Cola Co.”
He added, “We are making the necessary course correction that will enable us to fulfill our enormous potential, accelerate growth and create value for shareowners over the long-term.”
The earnings results come amid Coke’s effort to boost volume growth figures that have been slumping over the last several quarters.
In November, Isdell told investors the company needs to execute better. He pleaded with investors for patience in the short term in exchange for higher profits in the long term. He noted profits in 2005 will not be as good as the company would like.
Among the plans to boost growth: much more advertising. The company said at the investor conference that it planned to spend an additional $350 million to $400 million on marketing this year, shifting its ads from local, promotional types to big-media buys that could span an entire country or continent.
Last month, Coke announced several management changes and the resignation of its North American marketing boss.
For all of 2004, Coke said it earned $4.85 billion, or $2 a share, compared to earnings of $4.35 billion, or $1.77 a share, for the previous year. Twelve-month revenue was $21.96 billion, compared to $21.04 billion in 2003.