Coca-Cola's sales continued to rise steadily in the third quarter despite slower global economic growth, but sales growth eased in key market China, the company said Tuesday in an earnings report.
Coca-Cola said sales volume for its popular line of soft drinks -- brands like Coke, Dasani, Minute Maid and Honest Tea -- was up four percent in the third quarter, with gains in all its regions, including depressed Europe.
Net revenues were only one percent higher, but the company managed to eke out a 3.9 percent gain in net earnings to $2.31 billion, or 50 cents a share, compared with 48 cents a year earlier.
"We realized positive growth across all five of our geographic operating groups this quarter, despite facing a still-uncertain global economy," said chief executive Mukhtar Kent.
Growth was steady in the core North American market, adding two percent by volume, compared with the five percent increase in the year-ago quarter.
But volume in China, which has been the main driver of the company's growth worldwide, slowed to a two percent rise, compared with 11 percent a year ago.
India appeared to be filling in for China, with volume rising by 15 percent.
"Consumers across the globe are still feeling the effects of the prolonged uncertainty in Europe, the ongoing cooling of the economy in China, and a mild recovery in the United States. We believe these global macroeconomic pressures will extend through 2012 and likely into 2013," said Kent.
"As we look ahead to the next six months, it is reasonable to expect that China's ongoing economic slowdown may have a short-term effect on our industry and on our business."
But he said the company "continues to believe that China will serve as a long-term growth driver for our business."
Kent said the company still expects to hit its growth and earnings targets, which, he said, "will imply having a double-digit growth for operating income for the fourth quarter."