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Article updated: 4/16/2013 10:05 AM

Coca-Cola profit tops estimates as Latin America sales increase

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By Bloomberg News

Coca-Cola Co. reported first- quarter profit that topped analysts' estimates as Latin American sales volume rose. The company also announced a deal to sell some bottling distribution rights in North America.

Net income fell 15 percent to $1.75 billion, or 39 cents a share, from $2.05 billion, or 45 cents, a year earlier, Atlanta- based Coca-Cola said today in a statement. Excluding some items, profit was 46 cents a share, compared with the 44-cent average of 14 analysts' estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

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In recent years in Latin America, where growth has been led by Mexico and Brazil, Chief Executive Officer Muhtar Kent has emphasized Coca-Cola branded soft drinks, Del Valle juices and Powerade. Beverage volume for Latin America increased 4 percent in the quarter.

"We expect Latin America to continue growing strongly, remaining an outsized contributor to Coke's global revenue and profit growth," Mark Swartzberg, an analyst at Stifel Financial Corp. in New York, said in an April 12 note. He has a hold rating on the shares.

Coca-Cola rose 3 percent to $41.30 at 7:40 a.m. in New York. The shares increased 11 percent this year through yesterday, compared with an 8.8 percent gain for the Standard & Poor's 500 Index.

Revenue declined 0.9 percent to $11 billion. Analysts estimated $10.9 billion, on average.

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