Coca-Cola beats Wall Street forecasts, eyes cost savings

NEW YORK – Coca-Cola Co. reported better-than-expected quarterly results and announced a new cost-savings program on Tuesday, helping to send shares in the world’s top soft-drink maker up 1.3 percent in premarket trading.

Coke’s beverage business has been outperforming that of rival PepsiCo Inc. in recent months in North America, where a weak economy and growing health consciousness had curbed demand for sugary soft drinks. At the same time, the company has a much greater international footprint than Pepsi, which has helped its overall results.

Coke said global revenue rose 5 percent in the fourth quarter to $11.04 billion as it gained market share in several drink categories. Analysts on average were expecting $10.99 billion.

Worldwide volume rose 3 percent, growing 4 percent in Latin America and Eurasia and Africa, 5 percent in the Pacific and 1 percent in Europe and North America.

Quarterly net income was $1.65 billion, or 72 cents per share, down from $5.77 billion, or $2.46 per share, a year earlier, when the company recorded a gain related to the acquisition of its North American bottling operations.

Wells Fargo reports higher fourth-quarters earnings

SAN FRANCISCO ― Wells Fargo & Co. reported higher fourth-quarter earnings as the bank set aside less money to cover bad loans.

The fourth-largest U.S. bank by assets said it earned 73 cents per share. The average estimate from analysts was 72 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Net income applicable to common shareholders was $3.89 billion, compared with $3.2 billion, or 61 cents per share, a year earlier.

The San Francisco-based bank recorded a loan-loss provision of about $2 billion, which was down from about $3 billion a year earlier. For the seventh straight quarter the bank reversed reserves the bank had previously booked for bad loans.

The bank’s total loans increased about $9.5 billion from the end of September to $769.6 billion at the end of December. The loan growth mirrored a trend shown when JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) reported earnings on Friday.

Wells Fargo said it purchased 27 million shares of its common stock in the fourth quarter, plus an additional 6 million shares through a transaction that will settle in the first quarter of this year.

“I’m extremely pleased with Wells Fargo’s performance in 2011 – including strong deposit and loan growth, record cross-sell and record earnings,” CEO Jon Stumpf said in a statement.

Caterpillar quarterly earnings soar 44 percent, outpacing expectations

PEORIA, Ill. ― Caterpillar Inc far exceeded analyst expectations on Monday, reporting a 44 percent quarterly earnings increase and record revenue, and signaling tempered optimism in its 2012 sales outlook.

The company said it expects full-year 2011 profit and revenue to be at the top end of its previous outlook range due to strong demand. In 2012, the company expects revenue to increase 10 percent to 20 percent above the $58 billion in sales it expects this year.

Caterpillar is one of a slate of industrial companies outpacing analyst expectations during the current earnings reporting season. Like some of its peers, the company is encouraged by the strong results but remaining cautious about the wider economy.

“Although there is a good deal of economic and political uncertainty in the world, we are not seeing it much in our business at this point,” Caterpillar Chief Executive Doug Oberhelman said in a press release. “We believe continued economic recovery, albeit a slow recovery, is the most likely scenario as we move forward.”

The world’s largest heavy machinery manufacturer reported third-quarter net income attributable to common shareholders of $1.14 billion, or $1.71 per share, compared with $792 million, or $1.22 per share, a year earlier.

Analysts on average had expected Caterpillar to earn $1.54 per share in the third quarter.

Sales rose 41 percent to $15.7 billion, which is a record, according to the company.

Caterpillar said full-year 2011 results would come in at the highest end of its previous outlook.

The company now expects annual revenue of $58 billion, including its recent acquisition of Bucyrus. Its previous forecast had been a range of $56 billion and $58 billion.

Profit is now expected to be $6.75 per share for the year, compared with a prior forecast of $6.25 to $6.75. Including the impact of Bucyrus, Caterpillar expects 2011 profit to reach $7.25 per share.

Caterpillar said 2011 will be a record year if the company hits its earnings and revenue expectations.

Caterpillar said it added 4,800 jobs during the quarter, including 2,000 in the United States.

Its shares were up about 5 percent in premarket trading.

Medtronic earnings meet Wall Street views as CEO debuts

NEW YORK ― Medtronic Inc. posted quarterly earnings in line with analyst targets, as sales of its diabetes products, heart stents and other devices countered challenges for its important implantable heart and spine products.

The world’s largest medical device maker also backed its fiscal year profit and revenue forecasts on Tuesday.

The report marks the first for new Chief Executive Officer Omar Ishrak. Wall Street is eager to hear more about his ideas for reviving long-term growth at the company.

“My top priority is aligning the management team around improving execution and optimizing sources of growth,” Ishrak said in a statement.

First-quarter net income was $821 million, or 77 cents a share, compared with $830 million, or 76 cents a share, a year ago.

Excluding special items, earnings of 79 cents per share matched the average estimate of analysts, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

First-quarter revenue rose 7 percent to $4.05 billion, or 2 percent after adjusting for a favorable currency impact. Analysts looked for $3.98 billion.

“On the whole it was in line with expectations. No one is having a party for 2 percent revenue growth, but at least it was in line with what people were thinking,” said Jefferies & Co analyst Raj Denhoy.

“It’s been a long several years as far as improving revenue growth, and what investors are looking for is a turn in that top-line performance.”

Revenue for Medtronic’s implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) fell 8 percent. Spinal revenue was unchanged at $825 million.

Medtronic is struggling with weak demand and pricing in ICDs and spine products. Analysts expect further sales declines for the company’s controversial Infuse bone growth stimulant used in spine surgery following allegations in a medical journal that researchers hid serious complications.Diabetes revenue grew 14 percent, surgical technologies increased 13 percent, while its cardiovascular unit that includes stents and other products rose 19 percent.Medtronic still expects fiscal-year earnings in the range of $3.43 to $3.50 per share, including about 4 cents to 6 cents of dilution from an acquisition. Analysts are looking for $3.45.

It also backed its revenue forecast calling for growth in the range of 1 to 3 percent on a constant currency basis.