Coke sales rise abroad

Overall increase of 4% reported over last year.Reflecting the impact of a strong dollar, however, revenue was down 9%.

At a time when the recession is slowing most businesses, Coca-Cola Co. continued to gain ground thanks to strong results abroad.

Atlanta-based Coca-Cola, the world's largest beverage firm, reported Tuesday a 4 percent increase in second-quarter sales volume compared to the same period a year ago.

Coca-Cola Chairman and CEO Muhtar Kent said the company remained concerned about the global economy. Kent took over as CEO last July for Neville Isdell.

"It's still a very tough environment out there," Kent said. "Consumers are mixed. They're confused, at best. ... But we continue to drive our business. We continue to see opportunity to take share away from our competitors."

North America, down 1 percent in sales volume for the quarter, was the only region to post a decline. The company and its bottlers, though, are making changes that will pay off in North America in the second half of this year, Kent said.

He praised Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Enterprises, which handles 80 percent of Coke's North American bottle and can volume, for strong execution of the business plan. As an example, Kent cited Penn Station where newer equipment, better marketing displays and an improved mix of package sizes and prices has raised sales in the New York transportation hub.

"I can tell you it's very encouraging what I see out there," Kent said. "They're investing in the marketplace and they're getting huge volume lifts."

While global sales volume rose, profits and revenue were dampened by a stronger dollar, which diminishes international results when translated into U.S. currency.

Revenues fell 9 percent in the second quarter to $8.3 billion, reflecting the impact of the stronger dollar. Net income rose more than 40 percent to $2.05 billion, or 88 cents a share. Last year's results were impacted by a large, one-time charge for the write-down of assets at Coca-Cola Enterprises, about one-third owned by Coca-Cola.

Excluding one-time items, Coca-Cola had second-quarter earnings of 92 cents a share, down 9 percent from a year ago but 3 cents higher than analyst expectations, according to Thomson Reuters. Shares of Coca-Cola stock fell 1.3 percent Tuesday to close at $50.35.

"We find much to be encouraged about for [Coca-Cola], as volumes are stronger, and the bottlers are doing better," JPMorgan analyst John Faucher wrote in a note to investors.

"That said, the stock may react more to the [foreign exchange rate] guidance than the improving fundamentals."

Second-quarter highlights

Global view: Sales volume measured in cases rose 4 percent. It was up 5 percent internationally but down 1 percent in North America.

Fast-growing markets: Case volume rose 33 percent in India, 14 percent in China , 6 percent in Mexico and Argentina and 5 percent in Brazil .

Food-service gains: In North America, sales volume fell 4 percent at retail outlets but rose 7 percent at food-service and hospitality outlets.

Zero stays strong: Coca-Cola Zero unit case volume rose 24 percent in the quarter in North America, hitting double-digit growth for more than 12 consecutive quarters.