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

New York (AFP) – Coca-Cola shares slumped Thursday after the soda giant released a disappointing 2019 forecast based on weakness in emerging markets and a slowing global economy.

The company’s 2019 projections of four percent organic sales growth and profit targets lagged behind analyst expectations.

Shares slumped 6.9 percent to $46.33 at mid-morning.

“We are being cautious about the macroeconomics and how that is going to be a little softer than 2018,” Chief Executive James Quincey said on a conference call with analysts.

Quincey said the outlook reflected weakness in a number of emerging markets, including Argentina, Turkey and other countries in the Middle East, Africa and Central Market. Quincey also cited the lower 2019 International Monetary Fund growth forecast as a factor in its outlook.

Several analysts questioned the company over its projections, which held that 2019 earnings per share would be in a range significantly below the $2.28 seen by analysts.

“We’ve baked in what we see and what we believe is likely to be the softening of the global macro outlook and in the countries which are more apparent,” Quincey said.

Later, in an interview with CNBC, Quincey characterized the outlook as “very much related to the macro environment” rather than challenges facing the soda industry.

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.

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’s beverage portfolio now includes coconut water products in Brazil, an almond-based drink in Chile and a no-sugar coffee-chocolate drink in Australia.

The company also acquired Costa Coffee for £3.9 billion ($5.1 billion, 4.3 billion euros), a deal that closed in January.

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