Coca-Cola Earnings Jump

Coca-Cola ( KO) said first-quarter earnings jumped 35% from a year ago, easily beating analysts' forecasts, as the company benefited from higher volume and better pricing.

The Dow component earned $1.13 billion, or 46 cents a share, in the latest quarter, compared with $835 million, or 34 cents a share, last year. The year-ago quarter included a charge of 3 cents a share related to corporate streamlining, offset partially by a litigation gain. Revenue jumped 13% to $5.08 billion.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call were forecasting earnings of 43 cents a share on revenue of $4.89 billion.

Coke said unit case volume increased 9% in the latest quarter from last year, reflecting, in part, more shipping days in 2004. Average daily unit case volume rose 2% from a year ago. Coke reported a 6% increase in gallon shipments and improved concentrate pricing that helped lift first-quarter gross profit 15% from a year ago and first-quarter operating income 35% from a year ago.

Unit case volume in North America was up 2% from a year ago. It grew 4% in Europe.

Shares of Coke were recently down 22 cents to $52.06.

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