Coca-Cola

(KO) - Get Report

reported an unexpectedly strong first quarter Tuesday, even though earnings were down 11% from a year ago.

The Atlanta soft-drink company also said it will repurchase at least $2 billion of its stock in 2005.

Coke, which has been struggling with sluggish domestic sales and recently shook up its top executive ranks, earned $1 billion, or 42 cents a share, in the quarter, compared with $1.1 billion, or 46 cents a share, a year ago. Sales rose 4% from a year ago to $5.27 billion.

Coke's most recent quarter was laced with special items, before which it earned 47 cents a share, beating the Thomson First Call estimate by 4 cents. Analysts had been forecasting sales of $5.17 billion.

Total company case volume rose 3% in the first quarter from a year ago, led by a 4% jump in international volume. The overseas performance was driven by double-digit unit case volume growth in emerging markets like China, Brazil, Russia and Turkey. That was offset by volume declines in Germany, the Philippines, India and northwest Europe.

In North America, unit case volume was unchanged in the first quarter compared with a year ago, as was net revenue. Coke reported a 2% decline in gallon sales offset by improved concentrate pricing and product mix. Operating income in North America was hurt by a double-digit increase in the company's marketing expense.