COKE REPORTS IMPROVED FOURTH-QUARTER EARNINGS

President Calls 'Real' Campaign Strongest in a Decade

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BOSTON (AdAge.com) -- The Coca-Cola Co. today reported improved fourth-quarter earnings based in part on acquisitions and strong performances from new or newly supported brands including Vanilla Coke, Fanta and Diet Coke with Lemon.

For the fourth quarter, Coke said net income grew 2% to $930 million, or 38 cents per share, from $914 million, or 37 cents per share from the year-ago period.

For full year 2002, net income fell 23% to $3.1 billion, or $1.23 per share, from $4 billion, or $1.60 per share.

Planned realignment
In a conference call with analysts, management said savings from a planned realignment -- $50 million this year and $100 million annually beginning next year -- would be applied to the bottom line, though a spokeswoman had earlier said the savings would be plowed back into marketing. After today's call, another company representative said the changes would allow the company to invest more in marketing.

Last month Coca-Cola said it planned

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Soft drinks a priority
Executives also said carbonated soft drinks continue to be a priority, led by Coca-Cola Classic as well as brands including Sprite and Fanta. They said Vanilla Coke, which rolled domestically last year, was growing well globally. the company also plans to expand its non-carbonated presence, such as with the Western European launch of Nestle teas.

'Real' campaign
Domestically in January, the company launched Coca-Cola Classic's "Real" campaign, which President Steven J. Heyer today called the strongest campaign in the carbonated soft-drink category in a decade. He said he based his statement on early testing of 1,000 teens. WPP Group's Berlin Cameron/Red Cell, New York, handled the campaign and officially landed the North American account for Coke Classic last week.

The company said worldwide volume grew 6% in the fourth quarter of 2002 and 5% for the whole year. Volume benefited from acquisitions and license agreements on brands including Danone, Evian and Seagram's mixers.

Coca-Cola said it outpaced the total non-alcoholic ready-to-drink market in North America, including share improvements among carbonated drinks, waters, juices and juice drinks.

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