Can You Afford to Wait for Coca-Cola?

10/22/2014 5:53 pm EST


Jim Jubak

Founder and Editor,

This soft drink goliath announced disappointing quarterly revenue and earnings figures and mapped out a long-term cost cutting plan that failed to impress, and MoneyShow’s Jim Jubak thinks the trouble seems to be…well, just about everywhere.

As a child growing up with a mom who rooted for the Brooklyn Dodgers, I’m extremely familiar with the plea/challenge “Wait ‘til next year.”

Maybe Coca-Cola (KO) could adopt that as a slogan.

In announcing disappointing quarterly revenue and earnings figures before the market opened on Tuesday, October 21, Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent revealed a aggressive program to reduce costs by $3 billion—by 2019; to sell distribution territories back to independent bottlers—by 2017; and to add revenue growth as a metric for judging performance—by 2015.

I think it’s safe to say that activist investors weren’t exactly impressed by that schedule.

For the third quarter, sales fell to $11.98 billion from $12 billion in the third quarter of 2013, missing analyst estimates of $12.1 billion. Earnings fell to 53 cents (excluding some items) from 54 cents a share in the third quarter of 2013.

The trouble seems to be…well, just about everywhere. International growth is sluggish. In developed economies, consumers are thinking twice before reaching for a soft drink—with or without sugar—and frequently grabbing water instead. Global volume grew by just 1% in the quarter.

For 2014, Coca-Cola now expects to come in below its long-term earnings growth target and right now it doesn’t expect 2015 to be any better considering raw materials costs and exchange rate headwinds.

Potential sources of growth include partnerships with companies such as Keurig Green Mountain (GMCR) and Monster (MNST) and sales in emerging markets such as China. The company will be looking to spend on building new partnerships along those models. (Coke bought an initial stake of 10% in Keurig Green Mountain in February and then increased that position to 16% in May.) In China, Coca-Cola is gaining market share, the company said.

Coca-Cola stock trades at 19.7 times forecast 2014 earnings per share and shows a high PE to growth rate ratio (PEG) of 2.86. The shares pay a 3% dividend.

The stock hit a record high on October 10 as investors bet that the company was on the verge of delivering big cost cuts that would flow to shareholders and as they were willing to trade near-term growth prospects for the safety of Coca-Cola shares in a volatile, downward trending market.

Right now, I’d say Coca-Cola shares are expensive as insurance.

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