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The Coca-Cola Company (KO - Analyst Report) is set to report fourth quarter and full year 2012 results on Feb 12 before the market opens. Last quarter it posted a 2% positive surprise. Let’s see how things are shaping up for this announcement.

Growth Factors This Past Quarter

Though earnings beat the Zacks Consensus Estimates in the third quarter, they were below the year-ago levels due to lukewarm revenues and weak profits. Revenues increased only 1% in the quarter as benefits from volume growth was largely offset by currency headwinds and a flat price/mix. Volumes improved in the quarter due to balanced growth across the developed and emerging markets.

Earnings Whisper

The fourth quarter Zacks Consensus Earnings Estimate stands at 44 cents. Estimates have mostly seen a downward trend ahead of the fourth quarter earnings release. This may be due to persistent weakness seen in the overall carbonated soft drinks’ (CSD) volumes in North America since the past few months.

Changing consumer preferences, increasing health consciousness and growing regulatory pressures are affecting sparkling beverage sales. This is hurting CSD volumes for Coca-Cola as well as other beverage companies like PepsiCo, Inc. (PEP - Analyst Report).

Moreover, management is expecting fourth quarter adjusted gross margin to be lower than both the second and third quarter margin of 60.3%, mainly due to the currency and mix shift headwinds. Foreign exchange is expected to unfavorably impact operating income in the mid-single-digit range. However, profits are expected to accelerate in the fourth quarter as operating expense leverage is expected to be better in the quarter due to 2 additional selling days.

The stock carries a Zacks Rank #4 (Sell). We caution against stocks with Zacks Ranks #4 and #5 (Sell rated stocks) going into the earnings announcement, especially when the company is seeing negative estimate revisions momentum.

Other Stocks to Consider

Our model states that a stock needs to have both a positive Earnings ESP (Read: Zacks Earnings ESP: A Better Method) and a Zacks Rank of #1, #2 or #3 to beat earnings estimates. You could, however, consider other consumer staples stocks like:

Coca-Cola FEMSA S.A.B de C.V. (KOF - Snapshot Report), with Earnings ESP of +7.87% and a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy)

Kellogg Company (K - Analyst Report), with an Earnings ESP of +0.97% and a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy)

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