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Coca-Cola sells more drinks, sees higher 1Q profit

NEW YORK — The Coca-Cola Co. said Tuesday that its net income rose 8 percent in the first quarter as it sold more of its beverages around the world.

The world's biggest drink maker said it earned $2.05 billion, or 89 cents per share, for the three months ended March 30. That's compared with a net income of $1.9 billion, or 82 cents per share, in the year-ago period.

Analysts on average expected a profit of 88 cents per share, according to FactSet. Shares of Coca-Cola rose $1.04, or 1.4 percent, to $73.48 in premarket trading.

The Atlanta-based company said the higher profit was driven by a 5 percent increase in global volume.

Although growth came from all regions, the increases were far greater in emerging markets such as China, India and Russia. Overall, international volumes grew 6 percent, compared with 2 percent in North America. Expansion overseas has become an increasing focus for the company as sales have slowed in the U.S.

In North America, the company said volume growth was driven largely by the Powerade line of energy drinks. The company's Dasani bottled water and zero-calorie vitaminwater also contributed.

Coke is looking beyond soda and turning to its broader portfolio of beverages as consumers grow more concerned about health. Bottled water volume grew 15 percent in the quarter, while energy drinks volume rose 25, surpassing the volume gains in the company's namesake Coca-Cola soda, which increased 4 percent.

Coca-Cola also said that its cost-cutting program, which began in the January-March quarter, is on track. When completed, the measures are expected to save up to $650 million annually by 2015. The company is cutting costs in part to offset rising commodity costs, which is a problem for food and drink makers industrywide.

For the quarter, total revenue was $11.14 billion, up 6 percent from $10.52 billion a year ago. Analysts expected revenue of $10.82 billion for the latest quarter.

Gross profit, which doesn't include selling and administrative costs, interest expense or income taxes, was $6.79 billion, up from $6.57 billion.

Share buybacks totaled $845 million in the quarter, which were in line with the target range of $2.5 billion to $3.0 billion in share repurchases for the full year, the company said.