Profit Dented at Coca-Cola Enterprises

The beverage company sees a slide in North American sales but beats earnings expectations.
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Coca-Cola Enterprises

(CCE)

Thursday reported lower fourth-quarter profit, as sales slipped in North America.

The Atlanta-based company said net income hit $82 million, or 17 cents a share, compared with $128 million, or 28 cents, a year ago.

The quarterly figures include favorable tax items worth 4 cents a share.

Revenue rose about 2% to $4.40 billion.

Analysts were expecting 13 cents a share, according to Thomson First Call.

The company expects 2005 operating income to increase 4% to 5% with EPS in the low- to mid-$1.30s. The consensus estimates are for net income of $626.6 million and EPS of $1.33 a share. First quarter EPS is seen at 10 cents to 12 cents, vs. the consensus forecast of 13 cents a share.

The company said overall case bottle and can volume was flat for the quarter; North American volume was down 1%, while volume in Europe was up 2.5%.

"In North America, our diet brands increased 6.5% for the year as health and wellness trends continue to benefit this category," the company said. "Our Dasani, Powerade and Minute Maid light brands all achieved strong growth for the year, but these results were offset by lower sales of regular soft drinks as consumers shifted to diet and light products."

The company plans to repurchase approximately $150 million of its common shares in 2005.

Shares closed at $23.00 Wednesday.