Coca-Cola Co posted a 4% increase in sales for the fourth quarter but the drinks giant's predictions for 2002 have been adversely affected by soft sales in the North American market.

The group recorded net income for the fourth quarter of $914 million, or 37 cents a share, broadly in line with analysts' predictions, up from $242 million, or 10 cents a share, a year earlier. The 2000 figure had been affected by a number of one-off charges. Excluding these one-off items, Coke earned 38 cents a share in the fourth quarter of 2000.
 
Turnover in the quarter rose from $4.73 billion from $4.92 billion with case volumes up by 4%. However, volumes in North America, the company's largest and most important market, rose by only 2%, towards the lower end of the group's forecasts.

Sluggish sales in the US had prompted the group to reduce its volume-growth forecast for 2001 from 5-6% to 4-5%. Coca Cola predicted that earnings in 2002 would grow in line with its long-term forecast of 11% to 12%.