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Coca-Cola profit jumps 14 percent despite problems in its North America unit

The Coca-Cola Co., the world's largest beverage maker, said that it’s profit rose by 14 percent on a double-digit growth in sales despite problems in its North America unit.

The results, announced before the market opened, beat Wall Street expectations.

The Atlanta-based company said it earned $1.26 billion (EUR930 million), or 54 cents a share, for the three months ending March 30, compared to a profit of $1.11 billion, or 47 cents a share, for the same period a year ago.

Excluding one-time items, Coca-Cola said it earned $1.29 billion (EUR950 million), or 56 cents a share, in the quarter. On that basis, analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial were expecting earnings of 53 cents a share.

Revenue in the January-March period rose 17 percent to $6.10 billion (EUR4.5 billion), compared to $5.23 billion in the same quarter a year ago.

Coca-Cola said worldwide unit case volume grew 6 percent in the quarter, the highest quarterly volume growth rate since 2002.

International unit case volume was up 9 percent, offsetting another poor performance for the company in its key North America segment, where unit case volume declined 3 percent in the quarter.

"This is a strong quarter and a strong start to 2007," Chief Executive Neville Isdell said in a statement. "You can track our progress bottle by bottle around the globe. We grew both sparkling and still beverages while efficiently allocating our resources."

Company officials said they are aware of the problems in North America.

"We know what we need to do in North America and are carefully addressing the issues," Chief Operating Officer Muhtar Kent said. "It will take some time to achieve the results we desire in this key market, but we expect sequential improvement as we move into the second half of the year."

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