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Coke, Fuze tea demand drive Coca-Cola's revenue beat, shares hit record high

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By Nivedita Balu
·2 min read
Boxes of Coca-Cola are seen at a grocery store in Los Angeles
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By Nivedita Balu

(Reuters) - Coca-Cola Co's <KO.N> quarterly revenue beat market expectations on Thursday, driven by demand for the beverage maker's signature soda, flavored Cokes and Fuze teas, sending its shares up as much as 2.8% to a record high.

The Atlanta-based company said fourth-quarter revenue growth was led by its trademark Coca-Cola, that included products such as caffeinated beverage Plus Coffee and Zero Sugar soda.

Retail sales of its flagship brand rose 6%, Chief Executive Officer James Quincey said, adding that volumes in the brand were positive for the second straight year.

The world's largest beverage maker has been pushing into flavored sodas, coffees, teas and low-sugar beverages to attract consumers who move away from sugary drinks.

The company is also expanding its portfolio and bought dairy company Fairlife earlier this month after spending about $5 billion to buy Costa Coffee last year.

Credit Suisse analyst Kaumil Gajrawala found it reassuring that the group's core product did well amid such expansion.

"When the trademark Coke brand is up 6%... That's one of the most positive indicators we have," Gajrawala said.

The group said innovative sodas helped its organic revenue, a keenly watched metric that excludes currency fluctuations and acquisitions, climb 7% during the quarter.

Coca-Cola projected 2020 organic revenue growth to slow slightly to about 5% from a 6% rise it reported in 2019 and said it would continue focus on new categories through acquisitions.

"That's a pretty good indication that they feel good about the year so far... this would be seen as setting up a strong year," industry expert and executive editor of Beverage-Digest, Duane Stanford, said.

Volumes, a key indicator of demand, grew 3%, spurred by its Coca-Cola soda, with growth across all geographies. Volumes grew 4% for teas and coffee and 3% for sparkling soft drinks.

For the year, Coca-Cola expects to record adjusted profit of $2.25 per share, just a cent below analysts' forecast, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Excluding one-time items, Coca-Cola earned 44 cents per share in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, meeting Wall Street expectations.

Net revenue grew 16% to $9.07 billion, beating analysts' estimate of $8.89 billion.

Net income attributable to the company's shareholders rose to $2.04 billion, or 47 cents per share, in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, from $870 million, or 20 cents per share, a year earlier.

(Reporting by Nivedita Balu in Bengaluru; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)