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Blaming struggling foreign economies that have impeded sales overseas, The Coca-Cola Co. said Friday that third-quarter earnings will fall short of expectations.

The news didn't go over well with investors, causing Coke's stock price to drop nearly 4 percent, or $2.12 1/2 to $57.37 1/2 in trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

The Atlanta-based Coca-Cola predicted earnings per share will be 34 cents to 35 cents this quarter, compared with analysts' predictions of 36 cents.

On top of that, the company said it will reduce earnings by an additional 2 cents to 3 cents a share because of the recall stemming from a health scare linked to Coke in Belgium and France.

Coke blamed slow growth in beverage sales on the continuing economic turmoil abroad. Though it's still having trouble in Russia, Venezuela, Colombia and parts of Eastern Europe. But sales are expected to improve in other foreign markets, such as Indonesia.

Coke warned fourth-quarter earnings could also be affected by the recall. The company plans to keep up an aggressive marketing campaign to win back consumers. Efforts have included free-drink giveaways and putting Coca-Cola "greeters" in supermarkets to talk with consumers.

Times Mirror to sell Sporting News

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Times Mirror will sell The Sporting News and two job-training companies as part of a campaign to focus on its newspaper, magazine and flight information businesses.

Times Mirror, publisher of the Los Angeles Times and other newspapers, also announced Friday it has completed a transaction expected to save the company $23.5 million a year in dividends by reducing outstanding shares of common and preferred stock.

In addition to The Sporting News -- the nation's oldest sports publication -- and its Internet site, Times Mirror will sell AchieveGlobal, a professional training company, and Allen Communication, which produces interactive software and job training programs.

The company also will sell StayWell, a health information company. It will keep Jeppesen Sanderson, a profitable unit that provides flight planning, information management, navigation data and other services to major airlines around the world.

Sonoco buys Graphic Packaging

HARTSVILLE, S.C. (AP) -- Packaging maker Sonoco Products Co. has completed its purchase of the flexible packaging division of Graphic Packaging Corp.

Sonoco said Friday it paid about $105 million in cash for the subsidiary of ACX Technologies Inc. of Golden, Colo.

"We are pleased to be increasing our exposure in the consumer segment of the packaging industry," said Peter Browning, Sonoco's president and chief executive. Flexible packaging includes items such as cookie package trays.

The purchase double's Sonoco's presence in flexible packaging. Each company had flexible packaging sales of about $120 million in 1998.

The purchase gives Sonoco the Graphics Packaging operations in Canada, Ohio and North Carolina.

Sonoco has flexible packaging operations in Tennessee, Indiana and New York.

Sonoco's Industrial Container Division is located at 2122 Colvin Blvd. in the Town of Tonawanda.

Buffalo stock index declines

Buffalo stocks fell this week, led by Ingram Micro Inc. and Sears, Roebuck & Co.

The Buffalo Bloomberg Stock Index, an employee-weighted list of 55 companies with operations in the region, lost 1.37, or 0.68 percent, to 198.64. Twenty-nine stocks fell, while 21 rose and five were unchanged.

Sears, which said third-quarter profit won't meet analysts' estimates, lost 7 7/1 6 to 32 7/1 6 this week. The No. 2 retailer will miss forecasts by as much as 23 percent as competition from discount chains and other retailers slashes into its sales.

Ingram Micro fell 5 1/1 6 to 22 after the world's biggest wholesale distributor of computers saw its rating downgraded by several analysts. Morgan Keegan Inc.'s David Childe revised his to "market perform" from "outperform," and Raymond James Financial Inc.'s Robert Anastasi pushed his to "accumulate" from "buy."

Aerospace parts maker Moog Inc. fell 1 3/1 6 to 31 7/8 .

Among the risers, Acme Electric Corp. contributed the most to the index, gaining 1 1/1 6 to 5 5/8 . The maker of power conversion equipment won a contract to supply transformers to Coca-Cola Co.'s fountain division.

The Buffalo index set a 52-week high of 214.74 on July 6, and a 52-week low of 162.47 on Oct. 8. It's risen 2.1 percent so far this year.

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