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Coronavirus Could Mean Less Diet Coke on Store Shelves

By Keith Noonan – Feb 26, 2020 at 3:36PM

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The beverage giant projects that the COVID-19 outbreak could impact ingredient sourcing and sales volume.

The COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak continues to throw the business world for a loop. Coca-Cola (KO -0.97%) published its annual report on Feb. 24 and announced that the novel coronavirus could delay the production and export of ingredients including the sucralose artificial sweetener used in Diet Coke products and other drinks.

Coca-Cola doesn't expect the impact of the virus to cause it to miss its full-year targets, but there's still a lot of uncertainty about the situation. The overall impact of COVID-19 on the Chinese market remains unclear, and the virus appears to be spreading rapidly in countries including Italy and Iran. Cases are now confirmed on every continent except Antarctica, and the CDC expects the virus to spread in the U.S. and has stated that it could reach pandemic status. 

Five cans from sodas in the Diet Coke family.

Image source: Coca-Cola.

What does it mean for Coca-Cola?

Coke reaffirmed its full-year guidance on Feb. 22 (and again on Feb. 24) and discussed the anticipated impact from the COVID-19 outbreak. The company still expects to deliver approximately 5% non-GAAP (adjusted) organic revenue growth and roughly 8% growth for currency-adjusted operating income. Adjusted earnings per share for the year are expected to come in at $2.25, up roughly 7% year over year.

Coca-Cola projects that headwinds stemming from the novel coronavirus will have an adverse impact of between $0.01 and $0.02 on its first-quarter earnings, but the company cautioned that the situation is still evolving. China is its third-largest market in terms of unit case volume and one of the company's most important growth markets. Coca-Cola plans to share more information about its business outlook and the impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus when it hosts its first-quarter earnings call in April.

Keith Noonan has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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