(Adds details on currency losses, operating profit, context)
MEXICO CITY, Feb 25 (Reuters) - Coca-Cola Femsa, the biggest Coke bottler in Latin America, on Wednesday reported a 0.3 percent increase in fourth-quarter earnings, hurt by muted sales and currency weakness in Venezuela and Mexico.
Coke Femsa, which took on heavy debt to finance a string of acquisitions in recent years, is struggling to adapt as consumers turn away from its sugary drinks and Mexico, a core market, last year slapped a tax on such beverages.
The company reported a profit of 3.075 billion pesos ($209 million), compared with 3.066 billion pesos a year earlier.
A 12 percent decline in Mexico’s peso against the dollar in the fourth quarter drove up the costs of servicing debt denominated in the U.S. currency.
The company, which is a joint venture between Coca-Cola Co and Mexico’s Femsa, said a further decline in Venezuela’s bolivar currency also hurt its revenue, which fell 8.5 percent to 39.567 billion pesos in the quarter.
Coke Femsa said that on a currency-neutral basis and excluding recent acquisitions, revenue rose 23.3 percent, but sales volumes remained weak.
Excluding the acquisition of Spaipa in Brazil, sales volumes fell 0.4 percent to 878.6 million cases, Coke Femsa said.
Operating profit declined 3.6 percent to 6.374 billion pesos.
$1 = 14.7475 pesos at end December Reporting by Elinor Comlay; Editing by W Simon and Lisa Von Ahn