Things go better--but not better enough--with Coke

07/21/2009 1:47 pm EST


Jim Jubak

Founder and Editor,

Investors didn't like Coca Cola's (KO) second quarter earnings reported before the open on July 21. The stock was down around 2% at 1:30 p.m. ET that day.

 I've got to wonder what they're been drinking. If you look beyond the problems created by a stronger U.S. dollar Coke turned in a quarter with enough growth to keep the company's momentum going.

Second quarter earnings came to 92 cents a share, before one-time items. That was 3 cents a share better than the Wall Street consensus but still represents a drop of 9% from earnings in the second quarter of 2008. Revenue flel 8.6% to just $8.27 billion, significantly below the $8.66 billion projected by Wall Street analysts.

The culprit in the case of both revenue and earnings was a stronger dollar. (When the dollar goes up, Coke's revenue earned overseas in India, China, Europe, wherever, translates into fewer dollars on the company's books.)

Operating income, for example, fell by 10% in the quarter, the company reported. A stronger dollar accounted for all of that and more with the company calculating the negative currency effect at 14%. 

You can get a sense of what Coke's earnings would have looked like without the damage from a stronger dollar by looking at unit volumes. Worldwide unit volume increased 4% from the second quarter of 2008 and grew by 5% in the company's international markets. Unit growth was especially strong in India (up 33%) and China (up 14%.) 

And finally, the company reported good news out of the hard hit North American market. Unit volume there fell by just 1%. That's a welcome sign of stability in a market where sales have been hit by the double whammy of a recession and a move by consumers away from carbonated drinks.
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