A strong showing in key emerging markets and improvements in Western Europe have driven full-year results at The Coca-Cola Co.

The US-based group, the world's largest beverage company, today (14 February) posted a 4% rise in underlying operating profit to US$6.3bn during 2006.

Stripping out one-off items, including an impairment charge at its largest bottler Coca-Cola Enterprises, Coca-Cola Co. said operating profit rose 7%. Net sales rose by 4% to US$24bn last year, the company added.

"We achieved strong results in key emerging markets including China, Russia and across Latin America, along with improved performance in Japan and Western Europe during the year," said Coca-Cola Co. chairman and CEO Neville Isdell.

The company's international operations drove up volumes by 6% thanks to "double-digit" growth in markets including China, Russia, India and Nigeria, the company noted.

Volumes in the EU rose 6%, Coca-Cola Co. said, thanks to first-time contributions from acquisitions in Germany and Italy. Revenues, however, fell 11% as charges from the company's restructuring in Spain hit the bottom line in the region.

Volumes in North America were flat as sales of carbonated beverages dipped 1%. However, the company said it had gained share of the "sparkling" beverage category in North America due to strong sales of Coke Zero and Vault.

Revenues and operating profit in North America were up, however, due to "favourable" pricing, Coca-Cola Co. said.

Globally, the company's sparkling beverage volumes rose 4%, while its stills portfolio saw volumes rise 7%.

Isdell added: "We continue to demonstrate that we can be successful growing sparkling beverages, while expanding our beverage portfolio. With an improving set of capabilities, we delivered results at the top end of our long-term volume and profit growth targets."