* Adj Q2 EPS of $1.17 tops Wall St estimates of $1.16/shr
* Revenue $12.74 bln tops estimates
* North American volume flat, ex licensed brands
* Shares rise more than 3 pct to 12-year high (Adds CEO comments, share history)
By Martinne Geller
NEW YORK, July 19 (Reuters) - Coca-Cola Co (KO.N) posted slightly better-than-expected earnings on Tuesday on strength in emerging markets such as China and Russia, helping to send its shares up more than 3 percent to a 12-year high.
The world’s largest soft-drink maker, with brands including Sprite, vitaminwater and Powerade, does the majority of its business outside the United States — an asset that has kept it in favor with investors despite home market struggles, where anemic jobs growth has dulled sales of soft drinks.
At the same time, volatility in commodity markets will lead to about $700 million in increased costs this year for things like packaging, sweeteners and fruit.
Atlanta-based Coke said it had raised North American prices 1 percent to 2 percent in the first half of the year, and has already started work on additional increases that should total 2 percent to 3 percent for the year, even though such moves may lead some budget-conscious consumers to cut back.
“There’s no question that the U.S. consumer is still mixed, confused and somewhat apprehensive,” Coke Chief Executive Muhtar Kent told Reuters. “It is incumbent upon business leaders in the world ... to find the algebra for profitable growth .. and you do that through a host of actions.”
Still, Morningstar analyst Philip Gorham said raising prices again could be difficult, given the delicate state of consumer spending following weak U.S. jobs growth in June [ID:nN1E7670C0].
“Pricing should be led by the consumer, but the trouble is the consumer, particularly at the low end, is driven by unemployment, which is back up,” Gorham said. “I just don’t think the environment is right to raise prices.”
Coke shares were up 3.4 percent at $69.40 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange. They earlier rose as high as $69.45, the highest level since June 1999. Shares of PepsiCo Inc PEP.N, which plans to report its quarterly results on Thursday, gained 0.3 percent.
(For a graphic showing Coke's results and share activity, see: r.reuters.com/gyb72s)
Gary Bradshaw, a portfolio manager at Hodges Capital Management, said the company “continues to execute” in the face of macroeconomic troubles, and as such, he would continue to add to his position in the stock.
“The stock is not dirt cheap but it’s not expensive either. I keep adding to it in a new account, as more money comes in,” Bradshaw said.
Coke also said it plans to buy back at least $2.5 billion in stock by the end of the year, after it suspended buybacks in the second quarter due to discussions it was having regarding a “strategic option” for the company, such as an acquisition. The discussions are no longer happening, Coke said.
“There are always options, but if there are discussions, we’ll stop (buying back shares) again,” Kent said.
Coke reported net income of $2.80 billion, or $1.20 per share for the second quarter that ended on July 1, up from $2.37 billion, or $1.02 per share, a year earlier.
Excluding one-time items, earnings were $1.17 per share, topping analysts’ average estimate by a penny, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Revenue jumped 47 percent to $12.74 billion, fueled by last year’s purchase of North American bottling operations, price increases and a 6 percent benefit from foreign exchange rates.
Analysts were expecting revenue of $12.38 billion.
The company said the integration of its bottler was progressing on plan, with 2011 cost savings expected to range from $140 million to $150 million. In addition, the company said its productivity initiatives were on track to slightly exceed its expectations for annual savings of $400 million to $500 million by the end of 2011.
Worldwide volume in the quarter was up 6 percent. North American volume rose 4 percent, driven by the addition of new cross-licensed brands like Dr Pepper. Excluding those brands, volume was flat. That compares with gains of 2 percent in the first quarter, 3 percent in the fourth quarter and 2 percent in the third quarter.
Volume rose 6 percent in Latin America, 5 percent in Europe, 7 percent in the Eurasia and Africa segment and 7 percent in the Pacific region. Volume increased 24 percent in China, 17 percent in Russia and 7 percent in Mexico. (Reporting by Martinne Geller; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Maureen Bavdek)