Shares of Coca-Cola fell on a disappointing 2019 profit outlook (Karen BLEIER)

New York (AFP) – Coca-Cola returned to profitability in the fourth quarter Thursday, but shares fell as a disappointing profit outlook pointed to a challenging soda market.

The cola giant reported quarterly earnings of $870 million, compared with a loss of $2.8 billion in the year-ago period when it was hit by one-time tax costs.

Revenues fell six percent to $7.1 billion due to the sale of bottling operations to franchise companies.

Volume was flat during the quarter globally, with strength in Central and Eastern Europe offset by weakness in Argentina and Central America, the company said.

Full-year volume grew by two percent, led by developing markets and “slight” growth in developed markets.

Coca-Cola and rivals have had a hard time boosting sales of soda due to worries about health and obesity. The company has responded with more small packages, revamps of popular diet sodas and increased offerings in water and non-soda beverages.

The company forecast 2019 earnings per share would be in a range of one percent up or down from the $2.08 in 2018, significantly below the $2.28 per share seen by analytss.

Shares fell 2.1 percent to $48.73 in pre-market trading.

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