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Why Coke's a Buy

Editor's Note: Jon D. Markman writes a weekly column for CNBC on MSN Money that is republished here on TheStreet.com.


Coca-Cola (KO - Get Report), one of the great symbols of American ingenuity and pride, is on the ropes.

Crushed between the triple threat of a slowdown in carbonated-soda sales at home, the deteriorating image of U.S. interests overseas and a rise in health concerns everywhere, its revenue is flagging, and Coke's stock price, though up a bit recently, is down 45% from 1998.

Yet Coke has been around a long time, and it is a fighter. And it just so happens that, in recent months, its long-dithering executives appear to have recognized their peril in a more fundamental way and are prepared to emerge from their corner, swinging.

Yes, the cola king is preparing a comeback. And this time it just might work. On Wednesday, Coca-Cola reported a drop in its fourth-quarter net income due to impairment charges at its largest bottler. But revenue rose and results surpassed Wall Street's expectations.

Coke's fourth-quarter net income fell 22% to $678 million, or 29 cents a share, from $864 million, or 36 cents a share, a year ago. The company said it experienced 3% growth in its sparkling beverages, or carbonated drinks, a business that includes trademark products such as Coke and Fanta.

The secret recipe, strangely enough, has nothing to do with the red can for which it is so famous. The path back to glory is mostly green, with a big, new-age helping of tangerine and pink grapefruit, and perhaps a dash of java.

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