PORTLAND, Ore. - Coca-Cola Co.'s fourth-quarter net income more than tripled on the acquisition of a bottler and stronger sales of its drinks worldwide.
The world's largest drink maker has been relying for some time on growth overseas as consumers in more developed markets limited spending and turned away from soda and toward healthier juices and teas.
However, the fourth quarter saw sales jump in North America, suggesting its domestic business may be catching up.
Coca-Cola, based in Atlanta, reported Wednesday that it earned $5.77 billion, or $2.46 per share, for the quarter. That's up from $1.54 billion, or 66 cents per share, in the same quarter last year.
Excluding a $5 billion gain tied to the buyout of Coca-Cola Enterprises' North American operations and other items, the company earned 72 cents per share compared with 66 cents last year. That met the expectations of analysts polled by FactSet.
Coca-Cola bought the North American assets of Coca-Cola Enterprises in a deal that closed Oct. 2 worth $3.4 billion.
Revenue rose 40 percent to $10.49 billion for the quarter, besting expectations of $10.16 billion.
Coca-Cola saw beverage volume worldwide climb 6 percent during the quarter and 8 percent for North America.
The company said part of its improvement in North America is because it invested in its brands, through marketing, development and infrastructure support, during the economic crisis, said Muhtar Kent, the company's CEO.
Coca-Cola increased its emphasis on some non-soda drinks and got a boost from strong sales of energy drinks, enhanced water and other such products in North America.
The company also sold more soda, with Coca-Cola Zero posting double-digit volume growth for the 19th straight quarter. Coca-Cola brand saw its volume edge up 1 percent in North America. Sprite rose 4 percent and Fanta 3 percent.
Coca-Cola, which gets about three-quarters of its revenue from abroad, continued its growth path in these markets. The company reported its biggest volume gain in Eurasia and Africa, which rose 14 percent. Latin America posted a 5 percent increase, while Europe climbed 2 percent and the Pacific 1 percent.
For the year, net income surged 73 percent to $11.81 billion, or $5.06 per share, compared with $6.82 billion, or $2.93 per share, in the prior year. Adjusted earnings were $3.49 per share.
Annual revenue improved to $35.12 billion from $31 billion.
Barclays Capital analyst Michael Branca said Coca-Cola over-delivered for the quarter as it continued to outperform the industry and is poised for substantial growth.
Investors were pleased, sending Coca-Cola's stock up 28 cents to close at $63.15 Wednesday.