UBS Upgrades Coke to Buy

Analyst Caroline Levy says innovation will drive profits for the soft-drink manufacturer

UBS Financial upgraded Coca-Cola (KO ) to buy from neutral.

Analyst Caroline Levy thinks the company's revamped strategy of premium innovation will drive higher revenues and profits in 2005 and beyond. She thinks it's quite possible that president and COO Steven Heyer will stay, and she's more comfortable with Neville Isdell as CEO.

Levy raised the $2.35 2005 earnings per share estimate to $2.38, based on higher core EBIT assumptions for U.S. and Japan. She maintains the $2.12 2004 estimate. She raised the 10% long-term earnings per share growth rate estimate to 11% to 12%.

She notes Coke unveiled C2 in the U.S. and Japan, a mid-calorie cola supported by the biggest marketing campaign since Diet Coke. She set a $60 12-month target.