Coca-Cola full year results hurt by refranchising costs, tax charge

Leading beverage maker Coca-Cola said that full year net revenues for 2017 declined 15% to $35.4bn and by 20% in the fourth quarter alone to $7.5bn from $9.4bn in the previous year.

The soda giant blamed the revenue decline on “structural headwinds” related to costs associated with the ongoing refranchising of its North American bottling operations which is now complete.

Additionally, the company noted that while the recent U.S. tax cut will help it compete globally on an equal footing by facilitating the free flow of capital, it had to take a one-time net charge of $3.6bn in the fourth quarter resulting in a net loss of $2.7bn for the quarter and 81% net profit decline to $1.2bn for the full year.

Coke said it achieved major milestones in strengthening its business and returning to a capital-light organization, including a fully refranchised bottling system in the United States, its biggest market. The soft drinks maker has been selling off its capital intensive bottling operations to franchisees so it can focus on supplying them with less capital intensive concentrates and beverage bases. The firm noted that it completed the temporary ownership transition of Coca-Cola Beverages Africa (CCBA) from AB InBev and will hold it until it is refranchised sometime in 2018.

The Atlanta-based company said that total unit case volume was flat in the fourth quarter and full year, however, noting that developing and emerging markets generated positive volume growth for the second consecutive quarter, including in Brazil.

The firm stated that it continues to gain value share in total non-alcoholic ready-to-drink (“NARTD”) beverages for the quarter and full year, with value share outpacing volume share performance which is in line with the company’s continued move away from volume to value growth.

Coca-Cola announced in January the relaunch of Diet Coke in North America with an updated look, new packaging and the introduction of four new flavours. The company said that it is re-energizing and modernizing Diet Coke for a new generation of drinkers and that will be a continued focus for 2018.

Looking forward to 2018, the beverage giant said it expects organic revenue growth of 4% and adjusted earnings per share to grow between 8% and 10%.

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