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Coca-Cola reports consistency improving with 2Q profit rise

ATLANTA - The Coca-Cola Co.'s chief executive, Neville Isdell, has stressed the need for consistency at the world's largest beverage maker, and he said Tuesday he mostly likes what he sees as the company reported a 7 percent jump in second-quarter profits.

The results, which included a modest rise in sales and growth in most markets, beat Wall Street expectations and Coca-Cola's shares rose, though the company said it is disappointed with its performance in Japan.

The consistency is ''something as you know we have lacked in the past,'' Isdell told investors during a conference call.

''When I look around the world, I am very pleased with all of our markets. There are just a few exceptions,'' Isdell said.

Coca-Cola said it earned $1.84 billion, or 78 cents a share, for the three months ending June 30, compared to a profit of $1.72 billion, or 72 cents a share, for the same period a year ago.

Excluding a net benefit of 4 cents a share primarily due to the sale of shares in an initial public offering of a Turkish bottler, Coke said it earned $1.73 billion, or 74 cents a share.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial were expecting earnings of 72 cents a share in the quarter.

Revenue in the second-quarter rose 3 percent to $6.48 billion, compared to $6.31 billion recorded in the same period a year ago.

Stifel Nicolaus analyst Mark Swartzberg said in a research note that his firm considers the results encouraging, though there are some concerns going forward.

''The company is wrestling with major issues in addition to managing within a migration from carbonated soft drinks to noncarbonated soft drinks,'' Swartzberg said.

He cited Japan as one

concern.

Bank of America analyst Bryan Spillane said it's significant that Coke has been able to deliver strong overall results despite the weakness in Japan.

''With currency headwinds abating, we believe earnings visibility is good for the balance of the year and this should be constructive in our view,'' Spillane wrote in a research note.

The Atlanta-based company's shares rose 85 cents, or 2 percent, to close at $43.55 in Tuesday trading on the New York Stock Exchange. They have traded in a 52-week range of $39.36 to $46.37.

Companywide, unit case volume increased 4 percent in the second quarter.

The increase was led by growth in several markets, including China, Russia, Turkey and Argentina.

Coca-Cola also said it saw 2 percent unit case volume growth in North America and 7 percent in Latin America. Unit case volume increased 3 percent in the company's European Union segment, but revenue was down 12 percent there in the quarter, due to currency issues and a negative impact from structural changes in its business model in Spain. Coke said it saw volume declines in Japan, the Philippines and India.

''Clearly, I am disappointed with the results in Japan,'' Isdell said, adding that he had expected trends there to be positive in the quarter. ''Simply put, I got it wrong.''

In Japan, unit case volume decreased 6 percent in the quarter, in part because of weakness in core brands and poor weather. Results there for the rest of the year are expected to remain weak but show improvement, Coke said, noting that it has recently made management changes in Japan.

Sales of carbonated beverages and water were solid overall at the company, as were sales of sports drinks, Coke said.