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Coca-Cola sales rise as Covid vaccinations bolster recovery

Coca-Cola’s sales rebounded in the first three months of the year as vaccinations against Covid-19 and a rollback in restrictions on restaurants and bars stoked demand for its fizzy drinks.

Results released on Monday showed volume trends steadily improved each month of the first quarter. By March, unit case volume had returned to levels last seen in 2019.

James Quincey, chief executive, said he was particularly encouraged by the company’s performance in markets where vaccine availability was increasing and economies were reopening.

Coca-Cola produced $9bn in net revenues during the period, a 5 per cent increase year on year and better than analysts’ average estimate of about $8.6bn. Sales rose 6 per cent on an organic basis.

The results pushed shares in Coca-Cola up more than 1 per cent in pre-market trading.

Net sales had fallen 11 per cent in 2020, weighed down by the closure of restaurants, bars, cinemas and other venues that normally account for about half of Coca-Cola’s annual revenues.

While beverages consumed at home continued to underpin the company’s first-quarter results, Coca-Cola expects hospitality sector reopenings to fuel a recovery this year.

The company reaffirmed on Monday its forecast that organic sales would rise by a high single-digit percentage in 2021.

“We are pleased with the progress we are making,” Quincey said in a statement.

First-quarter net income fell 19 per cent year on year to $2.25bn, or 52 cents a share. Coca-Cola earned 55 cents a share on an adjusted basis, beating a consensus forecast of 50 cents.

The company also announced plans for Coca-Cola Beverages Africa to be listed as a publicly traded company. Coca-Cola intends to sell a portion of its shares in CCBA through an initial public offering.

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