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    Coca-Cola Volume Rises

    But a weakened worldwide economy is expected to hurt this year's overall growth.

    Coca-Cola Co., the world's top soft drink company, forecast second-quarter worldwide case volume growth of about 4 percent, within analysts' forecasts, but said currencies will hurt this year's operating income more than it had expected.

    The company now sees foreign currencies hurting 2001 operating income by 4 percent to 5 percent, more than earlier expectations of 3 percent to 4 percent. The company continues to struggle with some weak overseas economies, as sales generated in foreign currencies translate into fewer dollars, according to Reuters.

    While Coca-Cola did not provide specific earnings-per-share guidance for the quarter, it said underlying earnings per share before the effect of foreign exchange are ``encouraging.''

    The company said volume trends are improving in the United States and Japan, and it is seeing continued strength in Asia and Africa. However, operating environments in Germany and Turkey remain difficult.

    Coca-Cola said its unit case volume, a key measure of financial health in the soft drink industry, will climb 2 percent to 3 percent in North America for the quarter. Analysts have said they expected growth in that key segment of 1 percent to 3 percent. One unit case equals 24 eight-ounce servings, the report said.

    Gurkin called North America volume growth of 2 percent to 3 percent "aggressive," and said she still thinks North America volume will come in at the low range of what the company is targeting.

    Analysts had expected Coca-Cola to predict second-quarter worldwide unit case volume growth of 3 percent to 5 percent, compared with an increase of 7 percent in the year-ago quarter.

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