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Always Coca-Cola:

The Coca-Cola Company (KO) released fourth quarter and full year 2008 results yesterday that continued on their path of achieving predictable, sustainable and enduring value for their shareholders.

Some highlights from the report:

  • Strong worldwide unit case volume with 4 percent growth in the quarter and 5 percent growth for the full year.
  • International operations delivered 6 percent unit case volume growth for both the quarter and full year.
  • Global volume and value share gains continued across key markets and categories.
  • Solid cash generation continued, with full year cash flow from operations up 6 percent.
  • Fourth quarter reported EPS was $0.43. Comparable EPS up 10 percent to $0.64, reflecting nine consecutive quarters of double-digit comparable EPS growth. Full year reported EPS was $2.49 and comparable EPS up 17 percent to $3.15.
  • Operating income growth of 12 percent on a reported basis and 10 percent on a comparable basis in the quarter. Full year operating income grew 16 percent on a reported basis and 17 percent on a comparable basis.
  • Productivity program initiatives accelerating and are on track to deliver $500 million in annualized savings by year-end 2011.

I published a public and private stock analysis titled Taking Stock in Coca-Cola (KO) last month where I presented very clearly the competitive advantages that this company enjoys versus its global peers and the investing prospects of the company in the future. After reviewing the most result results, analyzing the numbers provided by the company and gauging the confidence exhibited by CEO Muhtar Kent I’m glad that I’ve added to my equity position in recent months. When readers compare the most recent numbers with the historical data provided in both versions of Taking Stock in Coca-Cola (KO) a clear trend emerges of continued operating success.

One paragraph that caught my attention came from Kent himself,

Our highly skilled management team is assertively addressing the challenges posed by the current global economic crisis. Working in close collaboration with our bottling partners, we successfully accelerated actions, refocused investments and intensified our disciplined execution to drive results. We also made significant gains in realigning our organizational structure to generate greater productivity and in rewiring our business for sustainable results.
While certainly not crisis proof, as no company is, I do believe our global business model is relatively resilient, as we bring simple moments of pleasure to our consumers, nearly 1.6 billion times a day, for cents at a time. We recognize that 2009 will bring many unique challenges to us and our consumers, customers, and bottling partners. Yet, I believe that our solid brand and business fundamentals – together with a fundamentally sound balance sheet, robust cash generating model and strong global bottling system – provide a sound foundation for our management team to continue driving long-term sustainable growth
.”

Regardless of the economic climate in 2009 for many companies Coca-Cola stands to benefit from their strong financial position to self finance growth through free cashflow and remain focused on doing what they do best.

I cannot stress enough the importance of a solid strategic focus in uncertain times by management and Coca-Cola has demonstrated an ability to continue to move forward in a measured manner that sets the company on the road for success for decades to come.

With the stock trading below $45, at less than 15x 2009 earnings, a rock solid dividend yielding 3.4% and stability not found easily in many global corporations Coca-Cola continues to grow the premier brand in the world.

I own shares in KO directly and indirectly through BRK.B

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