Coke Sees Volume Up, Confident of 2001

Coca-Cola Co., the world's leading soft drink company, on Tuesday said it remains confident it will meet earnings targets for the current year and expects to report worldwide unit case volume growth of 4 percent to 5 percent in the third quarter.

The company's quarterly volume targets came in line with some beverage industry analysts' expectations. The Atlanta-based company said it expects its unit case volume, a key measure of financial health in the soft-drink industry, to grow by about 3 percent in North America for the quarter.

Analysts said ahead of the announcement that they expected growth in that key segment of 2.5 percent to 3 percent. Analysts had expected Coca-Cola would predict third-quarter worldwide unit case volume growth of 4 percent to 5 percent.

``Even though the underlying fundamental strengths of our business have not changed, caution dictates that we closely monitor the increased uncertainty in macroeconomic conditions,'' Chairman and Chief Executive Doug Daft said in a statement. ''Not surprisingly, following the tragic events of Sept. 11, we have experienced lower growth rates in the United States as consumers modified their behavior.''

Analysts currently expect Coca-Cola to earn 37 cents to 44 cents per share for the third quarter, with a consensus view of 40 cents per share, compared with a profit of 42 cents per share in the year-ago quarter, according to Thomson Financial/First Call. For the fourth quarter, analysts call for Coke to earn 34 cents to 41 cents per share, with a consensus estimate of 40 cents, compared with last year's fourth-quarter profit of 38 cents.

Looking at the full year, analysts call for Coke to earn $1.53 to $1.65 per share, with a consensus view of $1.57, up from last year's full-year earnings of $1.44 per share.

Coca-Cola said it sees third-quarter unit case volume up 3 percent to 4 percent in both its Latin America and Europe, Eurasia and Middle East regions. The company also said it sees third-quarter volume jumping 8 percent to 9 percent in Africa and 7 percent to 8 percent in Asia.

Shares of Coca-Cola climbed $1.23 to close at $48.03 on Monday. The shares, which have fallen more than 21 percent since the beginning of the year, have underperformed those of main rival PepsiCo Inc., whose shares are down about 4 percent in the same period.

Coca-Cola plans to report final third-quarter volume results and earnings during the week of Oct 15.