Coca-Cola tops expectations, strengthening international market share

Beverage behemoth Coca-Cola (KO) released second-quarter earnings this morning. The company raked in 88 cents per share including charges (92 cents per share excluding items), an increase of 44 percent compared to a year ago. On a year-to-date basis, the company's earnings increased 18 percent while comparable earnings fell seven percent. The company noted that earnings per share were negatively impacted by the U.S. dollar's relative strength versus other world currencies.

The company also announced that unit case volume increased four percent, up from three percent in the year-earlier quarter. International volume growth came in at five, matching that from a year ago. Emerging markets performed well for KO, as India saw growth increase 33 percent and China notched 14 percent growth.

The company noted that it saw "sound unit case volume growth" in key world markets, including Japan, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Thailand, Korea, and Northwest Europe. KO's global volume and value share increased for an eighth-straight quarter, thanks to the company's "Open Happiness" campaign. Brand Coca-Cola saw three percent growth in the quarter, showing strength in Mexico, Japan, China, and India. This growth is important, as Japan, China, and India are seen as key emerging markets with quite a bit of money to spend.

Further important growth comes from its still beverage unit, which includes juices, juice drinks, sports drinks, teas, and water. Rival PepsiCo (PEP) managed to snatch the top spot in this area, and is now considered the world leader. KO's growth in this segment is a good sign, as there were questions about how well these higher-priced beverages would do in the struggling economy. Judging from KO's 12 percent international and 1 percent North American growth, this segment could help lead PEP higher (this is assuming that the company continues its leading role in the segment). Market share is increasing for KO, so we could see this negatively impact PEP. Of course, this all remains to be seen.

Coca Cola continues to be stuck in a rather well-defined trading range between the $37 and $53 levels. A year ago, the company did manage to break above the $53 level, but the prosperity was short lived. With the stock rebounding off the lower level of its defined range and heading higher, the fact that it has overtaken its 10-month moving average is significant. This trendline could push the stock through the $53 level, which could lead at a run higher to test the $65 region -- which is where its late-2007/early-2008 rally fizzled out. The good news is that this trendline could make a bullish cross of its 20-month counterpart, which is a bullish technical formation. Such a move could signal further upside for KO.

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