Coke

(KO) - Get Report

beat Wall Street's earnings target Wednesday but missed on sales.

For the quarter ended March 31, the Atlanta-based drinks seller made $1.11 billion, or 47 cents a share, up from the year-ago $1 billion, or 42 cents a share. Excluding some charges linked to Asian bottling operations, latest-quarter earnings were 49 cents a share, a penny ahead of the Wall Street analyst consensus estimate.

Sales inched up to $5.23 billion from $5.21 billion a year earlier. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial were looking for $5.31 billion.

"This quarter underscores that we are on track to deliver on our long-term growth targets," said CEO Neville Isdell. "Spurred by innovation and execution in key markets and increasing success in stabilizing some challenging ones, we effectively balanced results across our global operations to deliver 5% volume growth -- 3% in carbonated and 11% in noncarbonated beverages -- ahead of our long-term target. Strong growth in our Latin America group and our other emerging markets, along with another solid quarter in North America, is helping to drive our business."

Coke said a 4% increase in gallon sales and a 1% benefit from pricing and mix was offset by a 2% negative impact from structural change, primarily related to the change of the business model in Spain, and a 3% negative impact from currency. Coke said it granted its bottling partners in Spain the rights to manufacture and distribute Coke in cans, rights Coke previously held. The company will also reduce future marketing support payments to the bottlers.

Cost of goods sold decreased 5% for the quarter, reflecting a 4% increase in gallon sales along with increases in commodity-based input and freight costs, offset by an 8% decrease due to structural changes, primarily related to the change of the business model in Spain, and a 3% decrease from currency.

Selling, general and administrative expenses for the quarter increased 2%, reflecting increased investments in marketing partially offset by a 3% decrease from currency.

Coke bought back $499 million of stock in the quarter and says it expects to buy back $2 billion to $2.5 billion for 2006.