Wall Street was expecting Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) to report revenues and earnings that fell below last year's effort, and though they were down year over year, the beverage giant's cost-cutting initiatives allowed it to beat analyst profit forecasts even though it couldn't overcome currency exchange effects on the top line.
More than half of Coke's $11.4 billion in quarterly revenue comes from outside North America, and the strong dollar was once again a particularly potent force it wasn't able to surmount. Where organic revenues grew by 3% as it raised prices and sold a greater number of smaller packages, currency-adjusted sales resulted in a reported near-5% decline.
The currency effect also had an impact on earnings. The beverage company generated per-share profits of $0.33, though after adjusting for one-time items like restructuring costs, they were $0.51 per share, a penny better than what Wall Street was expecting. Still, foreign exchange differences were a 12-percentage point hurdle it couldn't get over.
Here are the highlights of Coke's most recent quarterly report:
- Net operating revenue of $11.43 billion, down 5% from last year.
- Net income of $1.45 billion, a 35% drop.
- Adjusted earnings per share of $0.51 versus $0.53 in the year-ago quarter.
- Consolidated unit case volumes up 3% from last year.
The dramatic difference in net income was the result of the various one-off transactions that occurred as adjusted earnings were down just 5% year over year.
Currency fluctuations, however, will continue to have an impact on Coke going forward. Where it previously estimated it would represent a 6-point headwind on revenues and a 10-point one on operating income, that's now been revised upwards to 7 points and 11 points, respectively.
This quarter, foreign exchange effects turned a 3% increase in sales in Asia-Pacific into an 11% decline. Organic revenues in Latin America went from jumping 14% to tumbling by a like amount, while Europe's sales were up 3% organically but down 7% after adjustments. The three markets account for a third of Coca-Cola's total revenue.
Yet Coke still believes it is on course to return to its previous growth trajectory, with chairman and CEO Muhtar Kent saying in a statement: "Our third-quarter results were in line with our expectations and reflect the continued execution of our strategic initiatives to restore momentum, which are beginning to take hold across our global business."
But the return to normalcy isn't being driven by Coke's mainstay soda -- instead, still beverages like water, teas, and juices are leading the way.
Global unit case volumes rose 3% in the quarter, driven by a 6% rise in still beverage volumes and a 2% increase in sparkling beverages, but in North America, it was much the same as it's been for far too long: Soda sales continue to fall as sparkling beverages suffered a 1% decline in case volumes, this even though there were more selling days this quarter than last year.
Although it enjoyed a 1% increase in Coca-Cola brand soda sales and a remarkable 8% increase in Coke Zero, that was offset by a similar percentage point decline in Diet Coke sales, which remain in a decade-long slump. Still, its new and expanded distribution partnership with Monster Beverage (NASDAQ:MNST) helped contribute to the gains as well.
Coke also continues to streamline its business. As part of its plan to refranchise half of its volume delivered in the U.S. by bottlers it owns by the end of 2017, it separately announced it had reached agreement with three of them to expand their distribution territories in seven states.
Coca-Cola's stock is largely unchanged in midday trading, undoubtedly reflecting the view that there's still a lot of work to be done, but it's going to be a long slog as the U.S. dollar stays strong, even if things do seem to mostly be moving in the right direction.