Coke Chief Aims to Make Things Go Better

18 February 2005

Earnings may be up at the Coca-Cola Company, but its head honcho says the soft drinks giant is still far from fizzing.

Chairman Neville Isdell, who came out of retirement to kick some life into the lumbering titan, says: "By most measures we did not perform to our potential or the expectations of our shareowners. We are not satisfied with our performance."

The company reports a thirty percent rise in profits in the fourth quarter and a twelve percent rise for the whole of 2004, notching $4.8 billion (€3.7bn, £2.6bn).

But revenues increased by just two per cent for the year with continued weakness in the US home market and flat sales in Europe. The figures were better, however, in China, Russia, Brazil and Argentina.

Earnings for this year are not expected to grow significantly as the company invests heavily in marketing its flagship brands and developing new products. Among the newcomers is Diet Coke Sweetened with Splenda, which will appear in US stores in May [WAMN; 10-Feb-2005.

Donald Knauss, head of Coke's North American operations, says there will be a significant advertising blitz this year including a "major re-emphasis" of the Diet Coke brand, pinning its flag to the "health and wellness" mast.

Isdell believes 2004 should be seen as the "beginnings of an important transition" for the company. He adds: "We are making the necessary course correction that will enable us to fulfill our enormous potential."

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff