Coca-Cola Co. reported lower-than-expected quarterly revenue, hurt by a decline in North American sales volume.
The world's largest soft drink maker said sales volume fell 2 percent in North America, citing the weak economy and unseasonably cold weather in January and February. Its shares slipped in early trading.
The company also said its deal to acquire the North American operations of its largest bottler, Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc., was on track to close in the fourth quarter.
Coca-Cola expects the deal, which follows a similar one by rival PepsiCo Inc., to help turn around its ailing North American business by streamlining distribution, boosting flexibility and cutting costs.
The company also said it remained on track to achieve its goal of $500 million in annualized cost savings by the end of 2011.
First-quarter revenue rose 5 percent to $7.53 billion, but fell short of the analysts' average estimate of $7.72 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Net income increased to $1.61 billion, or 69 cents per share, from $1.35 billion, or 58 cents per share, a year earlier.
Excluding items such as restructuring charges and the impact of the Venezuela currency devaluation, earnings were 80 cents per share. Analysts on average were expecting 75 cents.
Overall volume rose 3 percent, below the 5 percent increase in the fourth quarter. UBS analyst Kaumil Gajrawala, who had forecast a gain of 3.3 percent, noted that sales in Latin America, North America, Europe and the Pacific region had missed expectations.
Volume rose 4 percent in Latin America, 5 percent in the Pacific region and 11 percent in the Eurasia and Africa division, driven by increases of 29 percent in India and 18 percent in Turkey.
Volume in Europe was flat.
In the closely watched North American market, the 2 percent volume drop followed declines of 1 percent in the fourth quarter and 4 percent in the third quarter.
North American volume fell 1 percent for carbonated beverages such as Coca-Cola, Sprite and Fanta, and dropped 2 percent for still beverages such as juices, teas and waters, which tend to be more expensive.
Atlanta-based Coke's shares fell about 1.6 percent to $54.41 in midday trading.
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