Coca-Cola Co., the world's No. 1 soft drink company, Wednesday said it expects worldwide unit case volume to grow 4 percent to 5 percent in the fourth quarter, in line with analysts' expectations.

In a quarterly update, Atlanta-based Coca-Cola also said unit case volume, a key measure of financial health in the soft drink industry, would also likely grow by about 4 percent for the entire year.

The soft drink maker, which has in the past two years restructured its operations in its more than 200 markets around the world, added that its outlook for 11 iorities we have articulated will enable us to continue delivering strong and consistent growth worldwide," Coca-Cola Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Douglas Daft said.

Daft added that the company was pleased that growth trends in North America, its largest and most important market, appeared solid despite an economic downturn.

Coca-Cola forecast that unit case volume would grow 2 percent to 3 percent in North America in the fourth quarter and by about 2 percent for 2001.

Softness in the U.S. market was one of the factors that prompted Coca-Cola earlier this year to lower its volume-growth forecast for 2001 to between 4 percent and 5 percent from a previous range of 5 percent to 6 percent.

Volume growth for 2002 and beyond is projected to fall within that 5 percent to 6 percent range.

Analysts on average expect Coca-Cola to earn 37 cents a share in the fourth quarter, $1.57 a share in 2001 and $1.77 next year, according to Thomson Financial/First Call, which tracks consensus data.

Shares of Coca-Cola rose 35 cents to $46.50 on Tuesday on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares have fallen about 23 percent since the beginning of the year and have underperformed those of main rival PepsiCo Inc., whose shares are down 4 percent.