Coca-Cola Issues Its Last Earnings Update

Coca-Cola ( KO) affirmed its earnings outlook for the fourth quarter and 2003, and said it was changing its policy and wouldn't provide quarterly guidance in the future.

The soft-drink maker said it will make a $150 million pension contribution next year, reducing reported earnings by about a penny a share but not causing an earnings miss. Coke is currently expected to earn 40 cents a share in the fourth quarter and $1.93 next year.

Coke, which will start expensing stock options next year on the advice of shareholder Warren Buffett, adopted a new disclosure policy Friday that also smacks of the Omaha investor's input. The company said it will stop providing quarterly or annual per-share earnings guidance after Friday, instead offering investors "perspective on its value drivers, its strategic initiatives and those factors critical to understanding its business."

Coca-Cola said offering short-term guidance "prevents a more meaningful focus on the strategic initiatives that a company is taking to build a business and succeed over the long run."

"Our share owners are best served by this because we should not run our business based on short-term 'expectations.' We are managing this business for the long-term," the company said.

The company's shares were down 2% at $45 on Instinet.

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